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Indigenous youth bringing message from Standing Rock to Ryerson

The initiative brings young Indigenous people together to celebrate their culture as well as talk about water and land protection.

Young Indigenous activists are in Toronto this weekend as part of a cross-country tour to spread the message of what happened in Standing Rock.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Young Indigenous activists are in Toronto this weekend as part of a cross-country tour to spread the message of what happened in Standing Rock.

Last November a youthful Cody Looking Horse decided to leave his job at a Tim Hortons in Six Nations of the Grand River community and trekked, alone, to North Dakota.

It was a time when Indigenous people from both the United States and Canada were protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project they believed would put the Missouri River at envionmental risk. As an 18-year-old man whose grandmother comes from Standing Rock community, Looking Horse could not just stand by.

"I felt like I was supposed to be there, that my people wanted me to be there to resist what government have done to us for thousands of years," he said.

Looking Horse spent more than a month in the protests, staying with random people and learning from his elders things like Indigenous cooking and how to put up a teepee the right way.

But what brought more meaning to his trip is the sense of lending a voice to a good cause, something he's determined to keep going. He's now part of a group of young Indigenous people sharing stories from Standing Rock and turning their experiences into community- building efforts.

They'll be at Ryerson this Friday, celebrating Indigenous resilience and resurgence as well as talking about water and land protection. Similar events will take place at McMaster University over the weekend.

While the initiative brings young Indigenous people together to celebrate their culture, Looking Horse said it's equally important for younger generations to pick up on issues that will affect the world in the future.

"Clean drinking water isn't going to last forever with all these pipelines they're putting in and the pollution," he said. "Our children's children don't deserve that, and we owe it to them to stop it now."

Victoria Anderson-Gardner, an Indigenous activist and film student at Ryerson University, is making a documentary about youth experiences from Standing Rock and other resistence movements. She believes it'll go a long way in educating other communities about these important causes.

"These issues don't go away, even in the aftermath of the protests," she said. "We are the ones that will bring up change."

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