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Profile: Shannen Koostachin

More about some of the people from the 8th Fire TV series.

Activist:

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Shannen Koostachin was a young Cree teenager from Attawapiskat, an isolated community in Northern Ontario, near James Bay.

Before her untimely death at age fifteen, she won national recognition for her campaign to raise awareness about the right to quality education for Aboriginal children.

The community had waited a decade for the construction of a new school when, in 2007, Ottawa announced that it wouldn't go ahead with the plan.

Shannen and her grade eight classmates hit the computer, organizing young activists on Facebook and YouTube.

She travelled to Ottawa, speaking at rallies about the appalling condition of schools on reserves.

"It's hard to feel pride when our classrooms are cold, when mice run over our lunches," she said.

"It's hard to feel you can have the chance to grow up to be somebody important when you don't have proper resources, like a library."

She won the support of thousands of young Canadians and labour organizations. Her effort was called the biggest youth-led children's rights campaign in Canadian history.

In 2009, Shannen was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize, awarded by Nobel prize winners.

She left her home community the next year to get a better education in New Liskeard, Ontario. In June 2010, was killed in a car accident near Temagami.

MP Charlie Angus, with whose family she lived while attending school, introduced the motion "Shannen's Dream" in the House of Commons.

It calls on Ottawa to close the gap between funding of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal education.

Angus, in an article he wrote at the time of Shannen's death, quoted a letter she wrote at age thirteen:

"I would tell the children not to be afraid, to follow their dreams. I would tell them to never give up hope. Get up, pick up your books, and go to school (just not in portables)."

Links

Shannen's Dream
Heartspeak about Shannen's Dream