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UG secondary students gather for conference on Indigenous allyship

May 19, 2023

Fergus, ON – On Thursday, May 11, every Upper Grand secondary school gathered at the Wellington County Museum and Archives to attend a conference on Indigenous allyship. 

The conference opened up with a Thanksgiving Address from UG teacher Jerica Fraser and John F. Ross CVI student Adison E. The address was spoken in both English and Kanyen’kéha – a Mohawk language. 

Youth Representative of the Grand River Métis Council, Avaline B, also welcomed the audience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, speaking on the importance of allyship and how the day would be a moment of learning for everyone. 

“They’re learning their culture with you,” said Avaline of some of the Indigenous students who had invited non-Indigenous students to attend with them, “so, it’s really exciting you’re all here.” 

The first half of the conference was spent with keynote speaker, Riley Yesno – a queer Anishinaabe scholar, writer, and commentator from Eabametoong First Nation. 

Yesno’s presentation went over their own Indigeneity, what makes Indigenous allyship distinct and how it differs from just support, as well as how students hold power to make change in their communities. The focus of Yesno’s presentation was that allyship is more than just a title but a responsibility of actionable service to that community. 

The presentation ended with a period of questions from students to Yesno. After the presentation, Yesno shared that young people are their favourite audiences because “they just get the conversation more than adults.”  

“I hope they leave feeling more equipped with tools to implement in their lives. I also want them to feel empowered to keep the work going just beyond these few hours we get to all be together,” said Yesno. 

The second half of the conference went to awarding John F. Ross student Adison E with the Rotary Club of Guelph’s Indigenous Youth Award. The award certificate is accompanied with a $500 prize. The recipient of the award is always presented to an individual who demonstrates leadership qualities in the community and in the promotion of Indigenous culture.

Adison has been exploring her Indigenous culture through arts, canoe building, learning Anishinaabemowin and Mohawk languages and leading a school club to offer support for Indigenous learning.

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