Identity, a major concern of young Atikamekw

Identity, a major concern of young Atikamekw

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For her, the Atikamekw Youth Summit (SJA), through its conferences, workshops and round tables, allows her to reconnect with her culture and her community.

I’m here for that: I want to reclaim my culture, my identity, and above all not to be ashamed of itshe says.

What is the Atikamekw Youth Summit?

Created in 2017, the Atikamekw Youth Summit is an annual event organized by the Council of the Atikamekw Nation in collaboration with the Quebec Youth Secretariat.

This fifth summit takes place in Trois-Rivières from June 17 to 19, 2022. The activity is open to people aged 15 to 35, young people aged 0 to 35 representing approximately 65% ​​of the Atikamekw population.

Célina-Émilie Clary believes that language is the issue she heard the most about during this summit. Over the course of the discussions, this woman from Opitciwan realized that one of the priorities for the Atikamekw should be to find a way to preserve and promote the Atikamekw language, both on the reserves and in the cities.

Her friend Shawerim Coocoo is taking part in the SJA for the first time. Although she is interested in all the axes explored during the weekend – areas which, she judges, connect finally between them – she admits to having felt a particular interest in health issues.

Célina-Émilie Clary (left) and Shawerim Coocoo (right) participate in a beading workshop.

Photo: Philippe Granger

This young woman from Wemotaci dreams of becoming a midwife in order to open a birth center in her community.

I want to give women in the community a chance to give birth while respecting their language, culture and traditions while continuing to respect the territory.

Identity, a personal reality

While community spirit and identification with the Atikamekw nation are the raison d’être of the SJA, the issue of adherence to Atikamekw and Quebec identities is a little more complex.

To translate his identity, Shawerim Coocoo paraphrases Atikamekw Nehirowisiw’s declaration of sovereignty to support his words: I’m not Canadian, I’m not from Quebec, I’m Atikamekw. It’s an identity in its own right, but it remains that I live in Quebec.

Shawerim Coocoo and Célina-Émilie Clary admit to seeing an openness on the part of the Quebec population and to being optimistic about the future. The fact remains that Shawerim Coocoo felt uneasy when she tried to fit in the mold.

You try to play their game, to be like them, to act like them, but there comes a time when you realize that you will never be like them. »

A quote from Shawerim Coocoo, a young Atikamekw

Shawerim Coocoo also feels that the emphasis is too often placed on community identity, to the point to forget your individual identity.

In recent years, I have learned so much about what it means to be Aboriginal, what it means to be Atikamekw! Today I would like to know who is Shawerim!

While she identified herself only as a Quebecer until very recently, Célina-Émilie Clary confides that her identity may change over the years.

Everyone goes their own way differently. […] We can have two identities, you can be whatever you want. It’s not fixedshe says.

Shawerim Coocoo shares the screen with Marie Kristine Petiquay, also present at the SJA, in the documentary The invisible wall, by Laurence B. Lemaire. They reflect the reality of young Atikamekw.

The documentary The invisible wall is available online (New window).

Lisa-Marie Coocoo is in her final year as an AJS participant. She, too, notes that issues of identity and cultural preservation were at the heart of discussions at the summit.

Although she recognizes that it takes work hard to preserve the practices, this young woman who proclaims herself the eldest of the young notices that the young people are ready to make the necessary efforts and that they express the need to go into territory.

For this student life animator (cultural component) at the Kiuna Institution, this meeting is a golden opportunity to learn more about the individuals who attend her establishment.

Moreover, education was promoted throughout all of the weekend’s activities, whether by artist Catherine Boivin, lecturer Jon-Evan Quoquochi or chief negotiator Dany Chilton.

Education is the key to successlaunches Lisa-Marie Coocoo.

A summit with a bright future

Kosa Chilton is in his first year as Youth Development Coordinator for the Conseil de la nation atikamekw. This organizer who has contributed to the AJS since the beginning sees a crucial importance in this summit, which is enjoying growing popularity.

Kosa Chilton during the Atikamekw Youth Summit 2021.

Photo: Courtesy: Kosa Chilton

It’s very important, it’s the successionslice the 27-year-old man.

Kosa Chilton notes that young people prioritize being heard, having space and being supported. However, he admits that being aboriginal in Quebec is difficult, and racism still exists.

The coordinator also shares the optimism of the young participants as to the future. We are in a movement, we are in a good momentum, we can’t stop!

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