Last month, I (Dakota Lightning) was one of the fortunate participants on Cando’s National Youth Panel at the organization’s AGM and Conference in Whitehorse, Yukon. I first heard about the opportunity from my boss, Jeff Ward, who had participated on the National Youth Panel both in 2003 and 2007. When Jeff raised the idea of nominating me for the Panel I was grateful for his vote of confidence, but I knew Cando would receive excellent applications from coast, to coast, to coast and I don’t think I expected to be chosen.
My Path to Whitehorse
Fast-forward to this August, I received notice that I had been selected to participate on the National Youth Panel! At first I was surprised, but I was also excited for the chance to be involved in this conference and I looked forward to representing my Community and my workplace in Whitehorse. I recognized that participating in this panel was a chance to not only talk about the great work that I get to do every day at Animikii, but that it was an important chance for me to show Indigenous youth from around the country that technology can lead to opportunity and open doors.
While I attended post-secondary school in Edmonton, I never completed a degree; I’m a self-taught developer and designer and I thought my career path might not be “typical” for a National Youth Panelist. However, I was happy to talk directly to the local Indigenous youth who would be at the conference because I truly believe that technology can provide Indigenous youth with purpose, control over their career paths, and direction – things I know they may be searching for as they prepare to leave secondary school.
At the conference, each youth panelist was provided a few minutes to introduce themselves and their work to the audience. So, before leaving for Whitehorse, I spent a few weeks preparing and practice my presentation for the panel; I prepared a presentation about the work that Animikii does, but also about the areas of technology that interest me and about advice for youth who may want to explore a technological career, but who may not know where to start. Actually delivering the presentation that I had been practicing on stage at a national conference was a great feeling; I was happy to have a platform to connect with so many inspiring Indigenous people.
What I learned
While I gained a lot of good from this experience, the standout element for me was the genuine optimism and excitement about our shared future as Indigenous Peoples displayed by the local youth and by my fellow panelists. It gives me great pride to know more of my fellow youth who are working to do whatever they can to create positive change for the future generations of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I definitely recommend the opportunity to participate on the panel to any Indigenous youth who have a passion for their work or volunteerism. I learned so much from my fellow panelists and from the rest of the Cando Conference.
One of the most important takeaways from the conference for me, was learning more about the struggles that many Northern Communities face in terms of internet and technology access. While I talk about and learn about the “Digital Divide” that exists in Canada on a regular basis through my work at Animikii, it was an entirely different learning opportunity to hear directly from Indigenous youth in the local, Whitehorse Communities (and rural Communities from Northern Canada more generally) about the barriers they face to accessing digital resources. In my career, I hope to be able to work on projects that lower these barriers and I hope to be able to support Indigenous youth as they explore technology and entrepreneurship as career paths.
You can learn more about my fellow panelists here on Cando’s website. If you know an Indigenous youth who is passionate about his or her work or volunteerism, I strongly recommend nominating them to Cando’s National Youth panel when the time comes. You can keep up with Cando on Twitter or Facebook to hear about next year’s conference and other organizational updates.Article published November 8, 2016.