Inherent Rights Youth Initiative

Our Story

The vision of the Inherent Rights Leadership Initiative comes from Satsan, who has carried the dream of a four-day gathering of Youth, Elders, and Medicine People since his time as a young person at the Canadian Indian Youth Workshops and Ecumenical Conferences of the 1970s.

As young Indigenous people, we require transformative opportunities to develop confidence to step away from colonial Indian Act culture and flourish as leaders within our families, communities, and nations under the inherent right to self-government. Drawing on the strength of previous generations alongside our own vision, innovation, creativity, and passion, we, as youth, must take personal responsibility for being inherent rights leaders to move our people forward.

One of the most effective ways to train young leaders is through experience—by being leaders. The Inherent Rights Youth Initiative will continue to support each other as we identify and take up our responsibilities as leaders. We will look to the guidance of our youth network to find out what is most important to learn, share, and celebrate along our journey together.

The Centre for First Nations Governance and the Rebuilding First Nations Governance research project have worked in partnership together to breathe life into Satsan’s dream. A funding partnership with Melanie Goodchild and the Turtle Island Institute created an opportunity to bring the vision forward. Other partners emerged to ensure the work could reach its full potential. Soon, the founding youth members of the IRYI came forward and Elders Martina Pierre and Jerry Fontaine agreed to journey alongside them.

During our time together, we worked to find out what the IRYI Youth were hungry for and what their priorities are. We learned that there are missing parts in our identities because of colonization and the Indian Act. Oral history and ceremony are faint memories, and language is almost lost in some areas. From coast to coast, we are hungry to make ourselves whole again.

And so, the work of the IRYI is about advancing good governance, language, culture and effective leadership. It is about reclaiming what is inherently ours and developing a new generation of leaders. Today, the IRYI Youth are a group of emerging leaders who have gathered to support and empower one another as we reclaim languages and live beyond the reserve boundaries to occupy more of our ancestral places.

Check out our mini-documentary for last year!

IRYI 2021 Mini-Documentary