USAY - Calgary's Aboriginal Youth Council Appointed to Mayor
By: Carmen Daniels, a Metis youth from Edmonton, AB. Article written for the Aborginal Youth Network AYN
Do you ever feel like you are not being heard? I sometimes feel like even when we go to meetings that are supposed to be about us and our needs as Aboriginal youth, those needs are not always addressed, and it feels like no one is listening to our voice. At times I feel the frustration for someone to stop, take notice and pay attention to what we have to say. And then I sometimes wonder, if they do take notice of us, do they really hear what we have to say?
USAY and AYN logos
USAY - the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth is one youth group endeavouring to get our voice out there and noticed. USAY is the stop-and-pay-attention-to-us Youth Council that represents the voice of Aboriginal youth in Calgary, Alberta. And believe me, they have not gone unnoticed.
When the AYN last spoke with USAY, they had just begun their work as a Youth Council. They started small, working to get the community to listen to the voice of Aboriginal youth - all Aboriginal youth - in Calgary, Alberta. USAY endeavours to provide a voice for youth in Calgary and strives to bridge the gap between youth and the system that runs youth programs in the city.
Have they been effective? The AYN asked Noah WhiteEagle, Executive Director, all about it... Noah brought us up to speed on the precedent-setting events that really got USAY noticed!
On July 16, 2000, USAY became the first ever Aboriginal youth council to be appointed to the Mayor of Calgary. (Or the Mayor of any city, really!) USAY approached the Mayor with the an agenda of items they wanted, and ended up receiving much, much more! They are the first Aboriginal youth council to be incorporated into the municipal government.
And it's not just the Mayor that is taking notice of them! News of USAY's initiatives preceded them, and today USAY is heard by: the Calgary Indian Friendship Centre, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Calgary City Police and the Glenbow Museum - to mention a few of their partners.
We asked USAY, amidst all of this success and recognition around the city of Calgary, if they felt like they were reaching that youth population that so often goes unnoticed; the population that perhaps doesn't know how to begin vocalizing their needs, or may not know of the resources available to them.
"USAY takes it upon ourselves to search the community for Aboriginal youth who would like to join our cause and work for better communication between Aboriginal youth and programs in the city." Noah tells the AYN. "Our meetings provide youth with the sense of belonging, and gives them a place where they will be heard." All youth are welcome to drop in for the Youth Council meetings - USAY has an open door policy to all Aboriginal youth in Calgary.
Working so closely to the community may at times present obstacles. How does USAY remain non-political? "We work on community capacity building," Noah explains. USAY works to establish positive relationships with the community, and works to partner with groups working toward the same common goals.
Last month, USAY held their Aboriginal Achiever's Conference "FireKeepers Gathering 2000" in Calgary, Alberta. This was an Aboriginal youth Conference dedicated to opportunity and achievement of Aboriginal youth. If you want to find out what happened at the conference you can contact Joshua Fraser, Conference Coordinator of USAY at: (403) 268-5173.
Noah WhiteEagle is Executive Director of USAY. Want to talk to him about how USAY got started? Write to: email@example.com.
To find out more about the Aborginal Youth Network and USAY, check out their website at www.ayn.ca