While Indigenous communities have mobilized to defend their sovereignty and treaty rights across the country this year, Indigenous youth have taken to TikTok. Online, they are sharing cultural knowledge and shedding light on topics like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women And Girls (MMIWG) and the legacy of residential schools.
Here are some of the TikTokers you need to be following right now:
Michelle Chubb (@indigenous_baddie)
For Michelle Chubb, a Cree TikToker from Winnipeg, a video of her jingle dress initially garnered her attention.
“The first thing [I’d] shown off on TikTok about my culture was my black jingle dress and a lot of people liked that. So, I started pushing out more content of my culture,” Chubb told HuffPost Canada. After seeing the response to her video, she was inspired to try making her own dress, this one red. “That was a goal of mine, to make my own jingle dress. And I did.”
“The jingle dress is really sacred in our culture because the original story is of healing,” Chubb said. As the story goes, a girl got sick during the flu pandemic of the early 1900s. Then, Chubb explained, a medicine man had a dream of a jingle dress and learned the girl would recover if she danced in it.
“I was planning on dancing and healing myself,” Chubb said; her plans to wear her red jingle dress at a powwow this year were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic — which has given Chubb more time to spend on TikTok. “I want to inspire others to get out of their shell and show more of themselves.”
Kairyn Bureau (@ohkairyn)
Kairyn Bureau, a Two-Spirit Nakota Sioux TikToker from Treaty 6, decided to start posting about his life in Tkaronto (the original name of the land known as Toronto) while holed up during quarantine. Bureau seamlessly blends humour, fashion, art and makeup while tackling diverse subjects like dating and traditional land acknowledgements.
“It’s important for me to create awareness, education and representation for Two-Spirit youth out there,” Bureau told HuffPost Canada. “Almost every day I get a handful of messages from parents, youth and people telling me that I’ve either inspired them, taught them something, or have made them laugh and brighten their day.”
Though his growing follower count on TikTok is largely supportive, there is the occasional negative comment, Bureau said. “I’ve experienced hate my entire life, so I’ve grown thick-skin[ed] when it comes to stuff like that. I’m mostly concerned for the number of vulnerable people that follow me and read my comments along with me.” So, Bureau goes through and deletes the comments he thinks may hurt his fans.
The trolls haven’t stopped Bureau from making hilariously insightful videos about bringing his traditions into city life, like this TikTok of him jigging his way to Harvey’s.
Isabelle Chapadeau (@isapadeau)
Despite not growing up in Nunavut, Inuk TikToker Isabelle Chapadeau told HuffPost Canada she’s always been connected to her culture through close ties to family. TikTok offered her a chance to share her culture with those who were less connected. “We grew up in a system where we don’t necessarily learn about Indigenous [culture],” Chapadeau said. “But, I will always be there for people who really want to listen.”
Chapadeau touches on a diverse range of topics: Inuk regional differences, Inuktitut lessons, and mental health are just a few. Teachers have reached out to Chapadeau for guidance on how to speak to their students. “This is the most beautiful thing to me. I went to school where we didn’t have that information,” Chapadeau said.
“I’ve met so many Inuit [whose] parents or grandparents went to residential school and they don’t have any cultural information from them. And I receive so many messages [from] people like ‘Thank you, I can learn Inuktitut with you!'”
Shina Novalinga (@shinanova)
“It just feels kind of unreal,” Shina Novalinga, an Inuk TikToker based in Montréal, told HuffPost Canada. Her journey to learn throat singing from her mom has garnered nearly a million followers.
“We almost lost throat singing because of the missionaries. It was not recorded, it was not written down, it was always passed down [through] generations,” said Novalinga of the effects of colonialism on the tradition. “Luckily, there were four women who were still able to throat sing and were able to pass it down.”
Novalinga’s mom was taught by a professional throat singer and now, the mother and daughter document their tender, joyful lessons on TikTok. Novalinga said her mom might like TikTok even more than she does. “It’s really cute to see [my mom] react to how much recognition we get,” Novalinga said. “She’s really happy.”
Scott Wabano (@scottwabano)
“My life was a mixture of being raised around my culture [and] being raised [in] a city setting amongst other cultures,” Scott Wabano, a Two-Spirit Iyiyuu TikToker from the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, told HuffPost Canada.
“The content I create is geared towards youth, specifically Indigenous, Two-Spirit, and Indigiqueer youth and the lives we live. Those relatable situations that we all find ourselves in, no matter what tribe we come from, is what I make videos about.”
Growing up, fashion magazines were Wabano’s escape from the isolation he felt. But even then, his dreams felt unattainable because of the lack of Indigenous representation in fashion.
“Those relatable situations that we all find ourselves in, no matter what tribe we come from, is what I make videos about.”
Now, Wabano is filling that gap with fashion and beauty content that centres Indigenous trends.
“All I ever want to do is motivate and encourage Indigenous youth to achieve their goals, to love themselves, and to become the best version of themselves.”
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