WE Day 2018, told through the eyes of a Native kid who got lucky with his entrepreneurship class

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On February 20, I and five other Mistissini high students embarked on a school trip to Montreal to attend the charity event known as WE Day.

The event was a joy to experience and I have to thank the Cree Nation Youth Council and the Cree School Board for funding the trip. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to order Domino’s in the middle of the night.

Melissa, our head chaperone, planned for our bus to arrive at the school at 6 am. Being the responsible human being I am, I filled a backpack of stuff the prior night (who needs clothes?). Once everyone got on the bus, it became apparent that we were missing two out of six students. Those students later jumped on the bus in Perch, in what could be called a fatal error due to Indian Time not being included in the planning process.

Thus began the 10-hour bus ride to Montreal. I like to call it “le pèlerinage français” because one of the things I like to do during road trips is count and admire churches. The ride there was decent, slept a couple of hours, saw some large churches and ate some food. We arrived in Montreal at about 4:30 pm. This left us an afternoon to do whatever downtown Montreal had to offer. We ate at a food court after taking about an hour to choose what to eat. We met up with some long-time-no-see-friends. I searched for a store selling video games until someone told me that it was closing time. Distraught, I followed the group to the cinema to watch The Maze Runner 3.

After the movie, we returned to the hotel and were sent to sleep in our rooms, which we did not do. Instead, we put on facemasks, ate junk food and ordered pizza and wings. The chaperones were not very happy with us, as they had planned for us to be ready at 6 am for WE Day. We ingested our Domino’s pizza quietly and discreetly, because what’s a trip to the city without ordering food to your hotel late at night?

I had a pullout couch all to myself, and slept great before my alarm blared at 5:15 am, when not even the pigeons were awake. Nonetheless, we slowly rolled out of our beds and into our clothes, and then boarded our bus to Théâtre Saint-Denis. However, it seemed like hundreds of other classes had intended to do the same, as the line of school buses on narrow St. Denis St. seemed neverending. After splitting the sea of prepubescent students and finding suitable landing pads, we sat down for WE Day.

And holy cow was it great. Granted, I only experienced about 99.9% of the six-hour event, due to passing out for 10 seconds before being kicked back awake by the kid behind me (thanks, Derek). But that 5 hours, 59 minutes and 50 seconds were filled to the brim with t-shirt giveaways, motivational speakers bringing us down and back up, t-shirt giveaways, examples of youth who caused profound positive change in their community, t-shirt giveaways and more!

There were DJs, 14-year-olds, Olympians, football players, CEOs, founders, co-founders, activists, 12-year-olds and everyone you could ever learn about in a youth entrepreneurship class. A few notable speakers included Spencer West, a mountain climber who lost both his legs at the age five; Karl Wolf, a multi-platinum singer-songwriter who performed at the event; Daniel Patchell-Evans, founder and CEO of GoodLife Fitness; and WE Day founder Craig Kielburger.

But if you asked me who my favourite speaker/performance was, I’d say Theland Kicknosway. Theland is 15, is Wolf Clan, is Potawatomi and Cree, and is a member of Walpole Island in southern Ontario. He is best known for drumming Justin Trudeau into Rideau Hall in 2015 to be sworn in as prime minister and winning the Unity Youth Award in 2016. A singer, a drummer and a grass-&-hoop dancer, Theland spoke about the tragic Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis that terrorizes Native people in Canada and performed his traditional hoop dance live. His dance was incredible to watch and even more incredible to know that non-Native kids and teachers were experiencing this performance alongside us.

As WE Day came to a close we scurried out of the theatre, wading through students and staff. The students watched in jealousy as our Greyhound bus pulled up to pick us up and immediately head home to Mistissini.

WE Day was great. I’m sad that we weren’t able to spend more time in Montreal (so I could buy a video game), but I think the opportunity and experience of being in the city was good enough. I want to close off with an apology to our Domino’s delivery guy. Sorry for being inexperienced in the social expectation of “tips” and only giving you a toonie. The food you brought was delicious, and thank you for your service.

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