Fostering Indigenous Leadership in the Northern Latitudes
He is Inuk. He is Alive. His name is Franco Buscemi, and he is an emerging indigenous northern latitude leader from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada.
“We have long, dark, cold winters. Long, bright, hot summers. I really wish I wasn’t here.” But Mr. Buscemi is, because their winters can be long and hopeless, and his son is turning 12 in a few days. The heaviness he feels is because his son hasn’t had his first experience with suicide yet. His daughter, 14, has. And theirs is a small community.
“I’m here because I have a very intense hope,” Mr. Buscemi says. “Our community has had trauma the last 60 years, our recent history is bleak. Our future isn’t that bright as it currently stands.
“It’s something I’m going to challenge.”
He’s shows us photos of other young community leaders like Alethia, an already accomplished filmmaker. The tattoos that march across her forehead are a revival of an ancient practice. There’s Alan, a rising member of their bureauracy. They’re all in their prime years. There’s a two- to five- year turnaround in their government, and they don’t find their elected government officials comfortable with that.
“That was one of the main motivators for us. We’re not silencing ourselves. We’re a generation that have Western educational credentials, we all volunteer, we’re also very close to our responsibilities to our extended families, we all participate in our cultures, we all pay the cost of living in Nunavut.
“One strength that we do have is patience. Execution is quick, but development is unhurried. I’m here to share as well as listen.” To learn more, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find Amos Scott, Dene, you’ll have to travel to Yellowtree, Northwest Territories, Canada. “We are treeline people,” Mr. Scott will tell you. “We live amongst the treeline.”
It was during his first caribou hunt that Scott first learned the importance of the treeline ways, the importance of the land for the Dene. “Dene Nahjo means Dene, People, and Nahjo, which means Way of Life. Climate and environment means a change in our way of life.”
Their group is trying to foster leadership among the younger people.
“As we trust our way, we will make our way into the future,” Mr. Scott said. “With the support of Tides Canada we are only a little a year into our efforts. I feel we have a long list of accompllishments in that time. A cultural and innovation center of the north.
“At the rate things are going in the north, the caribou may go extinct. If the caribou go extinct, the Indigenous Peoples will go extinct. Good leaders are great people, and this is why I am here today, to support good people.
Follow @DeneNahjo on Twitter.
Drew Michael, Inupiaq, is a contemporary mask maker. He’s also into community development. Mr. Michael grew up in an area close to his ancestral home and gained introspection and perspective, although he and his twin were adoptees. He learned his craft from an early age from traditional maskmakers. He’s been researching how masks were used.
“I learned about my People, how to respect the elders, and how to respect and connect with your land.”
“I’m here because of the Native Fund,” Mr. Michael tells those attending IFIP’s World Summit.
He’s already completed a collection stunning works seen at http://drewmichael.net, and now there’s his compelling collection of 3’x4’ and 3’x5’ art masks called ‘Aggravaged Organizms.’
The oversized masks depict the 10 top diseases suffered by Alaskan Natives, including Alcoholism, HIV, Cancer, Influenza, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and others. This collection has taken him to Fairbanks, and to the Cultural Center in Bethel, Alaska, where he and his partner were able to initiate health conversations.
“Sometimes people have a hard time understanding what we’re doing, but art can be a vehicle for learning, teaching, and conversation,” says Mr. Michael.
Article: Terri Hansen
Photo of Franco Buscemi: : Terri Hansen
Photo of Drew Michael: Loren Holmes