June 30, 2019  •  Leave a Comment


A couple years ago I photographed the Innovaative Young Indigenous Leaders Symposium (IYILIS) & spent the week with 60 young indigenous leaders from across the province. 


Their Vision

Their vision is to create space for young Indigenous people who are doing grounded work in their communities to come together and share their experience and best practices. They invited young Indigenous leaders for a 4 day symposium, to cultivate common knowledge and ideas, empower each other and their communities and envision our futures together. They want to create a strong network of motivated and self-determining young leaders who can learn from one another and find common connections in their work.


They acknowledge the work that is going on around the province to revitalize Indigenous languages, cultural practices, laws, and governance systems and it is important to bring these people together to create a strong network and uplift the work happening in each of our communities to create strong, healthy and vibrant Indigenous futures.


Never had I ever been in a room with so many rad, inspiring, indigenous beings who were also passionate about

all the same things I was! 

I remember feeling,

'There ARE others?!' 

Ok so maybe there were all half my age but still! 

I felt like I found my tribe. 


So when my friends wanted to meet up to share their ideas and goals for this years 

I was so stoked and so there!!

  Though they were still manifesting the funds needed to pull it off

I cleared my schedule knowing it would happen cause they crazy doers! 


Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo) wow, how beautiful to be on your land. 

To hear your stories 

Your songs. 

Your language 

your teachings. 

 Though IYILIS was held at VIU,

always recognizing the importance of honouring the land whose territory we on

the first day was on the land. 

We ferried over to Saysutshun (New Castle Island)

  Ok if you've never been and you need an escape from Nanaimo  

Saysutshun (New Castle Island) is it's only little private paradise! 

Crazy to think for us neighbouring nations 

how close we are to each others territory 

but have never been.

we were Hosted by elder Xulsimalt,  Gary Manson 

Ummmm one of my favourite humans EVER!! 

He and his niece Emmy both work at VIU as support for First Nations students. 

Like where was that & they when I was there? ! 

IF you new or old returning to VIU and miss

home, culture, elders, teachings 

go find them!

Ok couple confessions,  I wasn't at VIU that long & 

pretty much all the IYILIS presenters were from my fav circles.

Even if those circles are mainly from spaces in cyber (instagram).

When you busy hearting all their posts,


you see them in real life 

 but you not really sure if it's them

& you don't want to assume or ask cause you don't even know their 'real' name 

they still part of your circle, like saltwater_womxn here :) 

Because medicine making 

knowing where to find 

When to find

& how to use 


There were many discussions on various topics that we all identified with.

It was so powerful to witness this next generation

owning who they are

knowing exactly where they come from & where they belong

representing their roots 

& reclaiming what rightfully belongs to them. 


 cultural identity & protocols   

To see younger and younger youth

learning their languages & 

carrying on cultural protocols 

gives me goosebumps. 

To me, it's like seeing elders in young people. 

Salia you my kind of elder. xo 

Apparently we don't see the world as it is,

we see it as we are. 

so of course I see elders in them all.  


I could listen to my friend Patrick for hours on end. He truly is an elder, wise beyond his years. 

Listening to him reminds me of my grandfathers. it feels so rare to hear that kind of talk anymore. 

the kind that grounds you

stops you in your tracks 

points out all the lessons you've been missing 

 reminds you of what you lost when you didn't even know it was missing. 


the kind of talks it felt like we all had before the internet interrupted us all.

 The kind of IYILIS talks.

  but it wasn't all talks. 

of course there were times for songs too. 

songs sung in each of their own languages 



it was far more beautiful than I could ever attempt to put into English words.  


Language revitalization Panel 

I for a split second thought about not attending this gathering 

specifically because I knew it would bring up a lot of emotion in me. 

When I think about Indigenous people world wide and the oppression, trauma and loss that continues to this day 

lights a fire in me. 





are life lines. 


What happens when we lose our languages? I personally can't even imagine our ceremonies without them.

When I see and hear speakers,

whom are obviously all elders

I can't help but think about what feels inevitable. 

I sat there listening to my friends on the panel of their languages. 

Trying not to ugly cry as they shared their emotional journey which felt oh so familiar. 

They too crave old ways

ancient voices 

& want with everything in them to have what's rightfully theirs. 

Pretty hard to find and feel the light when you full on in survival mode. 

But there are lights 

even if tiny flickers 

Fanning and softly blowing one another to keep each other lit. 

I'm so thankful to so many of these beings have personally kept me warm during cold, dark, lonely patches. 

So maybe we can't take everything they have

and all they know 

as much as we want to. 

I'm not sure we could carry it all even if we could 

So where do we go from here? 

What do we do?

How do we carry on? 

The same way our grandparents did. 

Through songs

Though ceremony 

Through culture.

Through the stars. 

Through taking it all back 

Through Making the old new again. 

Through one child at at time. 

Through coming full circle. 

Thank you IYILIS for choosing me to circle up with you. 

You give me so much 




I look forward to fanning your sparkles

Watching you light the way

as you continue to carry on the old ways.










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