Living Two Worlds: Cultural Identity and Aboriginal Youth Issues

Cultural identity is a means of created strength and stability in your life.
Cultural identity is a means of created strength and stability in your life.

Cultural identity is a means of created strength and stability in your life.
Cultural identity is a means of created strength and stability in your life.

Choosing Culture Make Stronger Young People

THUNDER BAY – In the city of Thunder Bay, the Aboriginal population in 2011 was 9.8% (11,670) of the total population. The Aboriginal population living in Thunder Bay is younger than the non-Aboriginal; the median age of the Aboriginal population in Thunder Bay was 26.3 years, compared to 42.9 years for the non-Aboriginal population.

With an abundance of young Aboriginal population, issues and social problems affecting Aboriginal youth are imminent. Some issues include: poor health, low levels of education, inadequate housing and overcrowded living conditions, high levels of incarceration, and high rates of suicide. Some social problems are: a lack of cultural identity, racial discrimination, substance and alcohol abuse, and crime.

There is a general lack of cultural and youth outreach programs.

Programing at Shkoday Abinojiiwak Obimiwedoon and Anishnawbe Mushkiki, while excellent are not enough.

It is very difficult for interested Aboriginal youth who do not have the proper transportation to get to the limited programs there are.

Additionally, the high crime rate in Thunder Bay is also a cause for concern for many parents to let their children out in the evening hours.

Furthermore, a lack of interest in cultural activities or any other extracurricular activities is a serious issue. Aboriginal youth left without positive options for activities may end up abusing substances and/or alcohol.

Often these acts are played out to stereotyping, racism, and prejudiced remarks.

With these acts of hate and stereotyping often comes with stereotypical names such as Indians, redskins, alcoholics, lazy, ungrateful, tax-free, and often thugs and gangsters.

The Wigwam at the Pow Wow Grounds is used for traditional ceremonies - Fort William First Nation
The Wigwam at the Pow Wow Grounds is used for traditional ceremonies – Fort William First Nation

Cultural identity can be defined as the identity or the feeling of belonging to a nationality, ethnicity, or religion. For many Aboriginal youth in the community, it is their sense of belonging in the Aboriginal cultural community that keeps them focused.

But with a lack of support and youth engagement, that connectivity and interest is shattered with negative factors such as drugs and alcohol.

For many young Aboriginal youth, there is a feeling of being ashamed about their Aboriginal traditions and culture. Parents whom at one point in their lives attended the Indian Residential School system often pass this down. Young children were taught that the Aboriginal traditions and culture was inferior and unequal, these effects still play out today as inter-generational mobility.

There is an identity to be carved out in urban centres that will allow Aboriginal youth to confront issues and identify with culture and modernity to ease the problems of coping with city living. In doing so Aboriginal youth can have the free will to have a blend of traditions and education.

In conclusion, to address these issues and problems, we need to foster positive cultural support programs. We need to make them available within the community at large. We can have youth amongst like-minded people who can help to build interest and connectivity, and to also tackle social problems that many young people face.

Aboriginal youth who are subjected to live a negative lifestyle, without cultural support can become victims to these issues. For one to live freely and not fall into the stigma of these issues they have to live in two worlds, to culturally identify themselves.

To develop that strength takes a lot of determination and support.

Clyde Moonias