'It's our time': World Indigenous Games conference inspires youth

Organizers of a special youth conference at the World Indigenous Nations Games are hoping young people in Maskwacis are inspired by the stories of resiliency they hear.

'You can always succeed, you can always find opportunity in your struggles'

Kyle Wolfe (left) and son Kaedin in the Samson Cree Nation school gym in Maskwacis. The school is hosting the International Indigenous Youth Conference. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

When Kyle Wolfe found out at 14 he was going to be a father, he knew he had to make some big choices.

He faced parenthood while attending high school and playing competitive basketball.

He remembers taking his son Kaedin in a child car seat to his diploma exams at Ermineskin Junior Senior High School in Maskwacis.

I hope they get inspired- Sharon Seright

On Wednesday, he told an assembly of young people at the International Indigenous Youth Conference at Maskwacis that his life shows anything is possible regardless of the situation.

"You can always succeed, you can always find opportunity in your struggles," Wolfe, now 29, said. "I found opportunity in my struggles."
Coordinator Sharon Seright is hoping the conference inspires Maskwacis youth. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

Kaedin, 14, is at the conference, held as part of the World Indigenous Nations Games, supporting his dad.

"This can inspire them and show them that even though you're on the rez, success is still possible," he said.

The teen is now following in his father's footsteps playing basketball and golf for which he's been chosen to represent Maskwacis at the upcoming North American Indigenous games.

His father's presentation called Resiliency on the Rez was part of the conference line up Wednesday.

There are also Cree-language sessions, a teepee-building class and Indigenous crafts at the conference which continues Thursday.
Maskwacis elder Flora Northwest says the conference revealed a positive life choices for young people. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

"I hope they get inspired," said organizer Sharon Seright of the youth attending. "I hope they don't give up. I hope they keep going and I hope they get the importance of education.

Seright said young people in Maskwacis are feeling a sense of pride in hosting Indigenous people from around the world and the conference is another way to build their confidence.

"It's our time as Indigenous people to have a voice," Seright said.

Maskwacis elder Flora Northwest said she's enjoying seeing young people interested in their culture and spirituality and keen to share it.

"They're going to learn more from the speakers and be able to have a positive outlook in their future," she said.

One of the popular breakout sessions at the conference took place in a field where youth got the chance to learn how to erect a teepee.

Helping unload the willow poles from the back of a truck, they looked on as a local elder showed them how the teepee comes to life.
Desiree McDonald (centre) and her mother Helen McDonald take in the teepee class. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)

"Not many youth my age have the opportunity to do this kind of stuff so it's really cool to take in this experience and learn from it," said 18-year-old Desiree McDonald who travelled from Grande Cache to be a part of the games.

Kyle Wolfe said the conference and event as a whole brings a message of hope to Indigenous people in Alberta and around the world.

After a spell as a youth worker, he's now involved in a program that provides sports equipment to kids who can't afford it.

Wolfe is hoping the exposure to sport and culture this week will be life changing for young people in Maskwacis.

"I've always said the more opportunity we can provide for our young people, the better they're going to find their passion."

One of the popular breakout sessions was an opportunity to learn how to erect a teepee. (Gareth Hampshire/CBC)