Skyla Hart made headlines last September when she chose to remain seated for O Canada at her high school, River East Collegiate, in Winnipeg. The 15-year-old student did it to honour her Cree and Ojibwe ancestors and to shine a light on Indigenous issues; she was reprimanded and removed from her class as a result. With the help of school staff, Hart later created Indigenous Voices, a student group that meets regularly to talk about Indigenous culture.
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Decisions I haven’t stood for the anthem for most of my life — since kindergarten. It celebrates stolen land and culture. I sit to point out the need for justice — because we don’t really see justice.
Problems My family and all Indigenous families have problems because of intergenerational trauma. Suicide is one of the main problems that Indigenous people are facing right now. If there was a kid out there who was suicidal, they would want to see another kid speaking out about it. They’d be able to relate to that, but so would other people. Sometimes adults forget what it feels like to be a teenager.
Action In our school group, we have Indigenous students speaking up about how to make the school a better place and how the school can help with it all. My mom works with Indigenous kids; she helps them learn about their culture. I want to do what my mom does when I’m older. Lots of Indigenous people didn’t grow up around their culture.
Mike Alexander is an Anishinaabe writer and artist from Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba.
This interview first appeared in Broadview’s July/August 2022 issue with the title “Skyla Hart.”
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