Culture, curriculum, community: Thunder Bay schools pushing back against racism

This week on Unreserved, how schools and grassroots initiatives are helping First Nations youth transition to life in the city.
Organizations and people in Thunder Bay are fighting to make the city a safer place for First Nations youth. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)
Listen to the full episode48:16

Imagine packing up everything you own and leaving your home community at age 14. That's the reality for many First Nations youth in Northern Ontario, who move to the city of Thunder Bay to attend high school.

It's a difficult transition for many kids, but there are people and organizations trying to help.

The Matawa Learning Centre isn't your average high school — in addition to standard classes in western schools like math, science and English, you can also take classes to learn to speak Ojibwe or Cree, how to play the big drum, or even skin a deer.

In the eight years since the 2011 trip to Thunder Bay that changed the course of her work, Tanya Talaga has seen a few improvements in Thunder Bay's institutions and programs. But she says the work is far from over.

Teachers at a local First Nations high school helped start a campaign called Wake the Giant. Local businesses identify themselves as a safe space for students and the greater Indigenous population in Thunder Bay.

That local First Nations high school, Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, just started some new programming to help smooth the transition for First Nations youth going to school there. It's a favourite past-time in northern Ontario — hockey!

Wiindo Debwe Mosewin is a patrol group in Thunder Bay. A couple of times a week they hop into trucks, hand out blankets, food and hot chocolate to those in need and will patrol the streets, looking for youth who might need help. 

This week's playlist: 
Nick Sherman. (Twitter: @CBCNickSherman)

Nick Sherman — Winterdark

The Students Of Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School feat. July Talk — Mourning Keeps Coming Back