Professor Taiaiake (Youth Forum, National Native Title Conference 2016)


[greetings in Mohawk]

I am Mohawk of the Bear Clan from the community called Kahnawá:ke. And my name is Taiaiake and, ah, the community I’m from is located in the eastern part of Canada near the city of Montreal.

Because our youth are losing their language, they’re suffering because of their disconnection from the land. They’re suffering because of poverty, they’re suffering because of racism, and we have to address these issues ourselves.

The youth have the responsibility, just like any other Indigenous person to find out their responsibilities are in the here and now and going forward, and how they honour the sacrifices of their ancestors and their responsibilities within our culture. Whether you’re 51 years old like I am, or 24 the first time I came here, or even a 12 year old or a 9 year old.

The struggle is the same which is to recognise what is my responsibility, and to courageously and with integrity carry that out. And I think younger people, much more so than people who have reached adulthood and so forth, are in a position to provide energy, they tend to have less constrictions on their ability to organise, to move around, to devote energy and time to building political movements and to engage in forms of struggle than people that are mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, that have all these other responsibilities.

So I think that if you’re thinking about youth versus older people, youth provide the energy and the spark, they also just have to remember that youth is transient, and that they have to have an eye for the future that they’re gonna get older, and they’re going to have to take on responsibilities, so to prepare themselves for that as well.

I’ve been in a lot of youth forums, the first time I came to Australia was in 1993 as a youth delegate actually, from Canada on a big research project that was happening and so in dealing with youth issues I’ve had a lot of experience promoting militancy among young people through warrior societies and so forth and participating in that myself. I’m a father, I have a lot of different relationships where it’s in relation to promoting the idea of young people taking up the responsibilities and putting themselves out front and rooting themselves culturally.

What I heard in the forum was very consistent with things I’ve heard for many, many years, the concerns youth have, the challenges they’re facing and the vision they have for more inclusion, more participation, more respect from the older generation. Those are conversations I had in 1993 over here, so that’s good, because it shows that they’re politically engaged, they’re aware and they’re committed, so I was very impressed with that.