WATCH — ‘My family did not have a decent home’: This girl shares her story
9-year-old won an award for her story about life on a reserve
Bella Morrisseau Whiskeyjack loves writing stories and sharing them — even when they’re about things her ancestors never spoke about.
Her most recent one is called Honour the Treaties.
“I remember when I first moved here, I just had a little bag of clothes.” - Bella Morrisseau Whiskeyjack
It started as a speech she gave at her school, and now it’s going to be published.
It’s about how Indigenous people in Canada were given land on reserves many years ago, and the difficult lives they face there today.
Bella is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation.
When she was younger, she lived on the reserve in Alberta, which is part of Treaty 6.
Today she lives in Edmonton.
Treaty 6 is an agreement between First Nations and the Canadian government that was signed in 1876.
Today, kids like Bella are living with the consequences of these treaties.
But many of the kids at Bella’s current school aren’t aware of what it’s really like to live on a reserve, which is why she wrote the story.
“The kids don't really know about that,” she told CBC Kids News. “I told them so they can know what happened there … to see if they can help me change this.”
Bella and her brother Cashton, in the backyard of their home. (Dave Bajer/CBC)
A few years ago, Bella moved in with her grandfather, Merle Morrisseau.
It wasn’t until she wrote her speech that he understood what her life had been like.
“When she was describing these things, and I'm looking at her and of course describing as a nine-year-old girl … it was very emotional,” Morrisseau said.
Morrisseau is very proud of Bella and encouraged her to speak her truth.
“We can't suppress children from talking,” he said. “Way back when, you were simply told don't say anything, don't talk.”
Bella and her grandfather, Merle Morrisseau, in their house in Edmonton. He says it’s time kids like Bella were given a platform to tell their stories. (Dave Bajer/CBC)
As far as what kids can do, Bella suggested donations for the kids on reserves.
“There isn’t a lot of food. They could donate some food and clothes. I remember when I first moved here, I just had a little bag of clothes,” she said.
Bella won the silver award for the 2019 Indigenous Child Author Competition through the UNESCO Voices for Future Generations Children’s Initiative.
Her book will be published in the coming months.
“I just like the feeling and knowing that I could write a story and I could share it with other people in the world,” she said.