May 14, 2018
Posted in: Gabriel Dumont College
By Tracie Léost
Tracie Léost is a student at the Gabriel Dumont College at the University of Regina
On Thursday, April 5, 2018, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel that discussed Leadership in Action: Stories that Inspire a Nation. The event was hosted in Toronto by the Canadian Club Toronto in celebration of Indigenous Youth. The panel members included three Indspire Laureates, including Ashley Callingbull, Thomas Dymond, and me, and was moderated by Ms. Roberta Jamieson, the President and CEO of Indspire.
We were invited to share our stories of determination, to discuss our plans and hopes for the country, as well as to speak to Canada’s progress in quest for true reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
We had been previously notified that Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be in attendance. So, I planned my talk around the importance of investing in Indigenous education.
Following last minute changes, the Prime Minister did not attend, however there were several public figures, business people, and many Indigenous peoples in attendance. I shifted the focus of my talk from investment of Indigenous education to connecting with Indigenous peoples, especially the youth, to inspire them to stick with their education, to work hard, and to chase their dreams.
I had the opportunity to share my story of bullying and isolation at school, my determination to succeed, and the people and community that made it possible.
I come from a Métis community in Manitoba. My grandparents live there, but my parents have always lived in Winnipeg. So I went to school in Winnipeg but every weekend, summer, or school break I was back in my community. I am a very community-based person and my community is a huge part of my identity. Growing up there I was surrounded by my people, as well as Métis culture and traditions.
From Kindergarten to grade 8, I was just one of the two Indigenous students in my class in Winnipeg. The number of Indigenous students increased slightly in high school. We were four from grades 9-12. It was hard for me to not be in an environment surrounded by people who were just like me, and that’s where I struggled I didn’t have a sense of community at school.
I experienced bullying and isolation at school. I remember going on a class field trip and we were on the bus passing through Winnipeg North End which struggles with poverty and homelessness. My classmates asked me and the other Indigenous student if the homeless people on the streets were our cousins. They asked if we would turn out that way because we are the same people.
What has motivated me to succeed is that I am extremely proud of who I am. It is with pride that I carry myself as a strong Indigenous woman. Like the saying “people wear their heart on their sleeves,” that’s culture for me, it’s there and it’s present. My people have gone through much struggle so our culture could survive, and we could succeed. For that I will never be ashamed. My motivation is also much bigger than just myself. No one thought I was capable of achieving much in life. As a role model I feel like I am in a position of breaking the barriers so that our future generations can be more successful. My Elder always say “Hold your head up and be strong because the next generation is watching,” and that is what motivates me. I have the ability to pave the way so that our future generations can build their dreams in an environment that supports them.
After the event, I met with several Indigenous students and we shared stories, our experiences, and how to get over hardships. The panel was also broadcasted across the country and many Indigenous students reached out to me via social media about what to do when you’re bullied for being Indigenous.
I always say it would be wonderful to have an Indigenous woman as the Prime Minister of Canada. Maybe one day that will be me. My goal is to empower others to take part in reconciliation, to move forward as a country that empowers Indigenous youth so that they don’t have to experience what I did as a child.
I am completing my first year in Gabriel Dumont College at the University of Regina. My goal is to graduate with a social work degree and have a career in the community working with the youth. I continue to look forward to sharing my story with Indigenous youth and others that inspire me to move forward. Maarsii!
Tracie Léost, 19, is originally from St. Laurent, Manitoba. In 2014, Tracie won three bronze medals under the Métis flag at the North American Indigenous Games in Regina. In 2015, she set out on a four-day 115 km run to raise awareness on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and raised over $6,000 for the Families First Foundation.