Indigenous Learning Youth Group

The Cause

Crystal Kids is a drop in centre for at-risk inner city youth. By declaration just about 80% of youth attending Crystal Kids are urban Indigenous. It is a sad fact that as a result of Indian Residential Schools and other previous government policies, as well as living in poverty away from native communities, these children have no concept of their culture, spirituality, language or heritage. Our idea is to create an Indigenous Learning Youth Group which will meet weekly and explore Indigenous culture and language.

Each of us is the sum of our cultural history, family, spirituality, education and expectations for the future. If we are unaware or ill informed as to our cultural history and spirituality we are incomplete. Indigenous communities are reconstructing what was lost of their culture through Residential Schools and the 60s scoop and this knowledge needs to be brought to the children at Crystal Kids.

Our goal is to create a youth group that will meet for several hours weekly to explore Indigenous culture and language. The group will examine many of the ceremonies of native cultures; participate in singing, dancing and drumming from Cree, Algonquin, Dene and other native groups. This group will be open to all youth regardless of background based on our belief that knowledge of others will lead to understanding and acceptance of the differences between the various cultural groups represented in Canada.

As educators and mentors to inner-city youth in Edmonton Crystal Kids witnesses daily the struggles of urban Indigenous youth created by being unaware or ashamed of their culture and history. We want to fill this void by providing age appropriate culturally accurate teaching in the areas of language, arts and crafts, drumming and dance, spiritually and traditional ways. As with all programs at Crystal Kids this group will be participant lead whereby the children will have input into the activities as it is their curiosity about native culture that we wish to inspire, nurture and then satisfy.

“The history of Indian Residential Schools in this country, and what needs to be done to address the legacy of them, is not just something for and about Aboriginal people. As a country, this chapter of our history belongs to all of us. As its citizens, we all own our past, just as we will all own its future.”— Marie Wilson, Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner.

Who Will it Benefit?

In 2017 Crystal Kids had 263 individual participants attend the centre for one or more of the programs we offer. These participants were comprised of youth aged from six to twenty years of age. Of those youth 188 declared that they were from an Indigenous background.

Our children and youth come from the impoverished inner-city communities. Our children and youth represent all cultures and ethnicities; however, our primary attendees are urban Indigenous youth, newcomer youth, and a real mix of Canadian cultures.

With scarce food and clothing resources at home, and often facing eviction, or pest infestation issues, our children are struggling to have even their basic needs met. Domestic violence, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse goes hand in hand with poverty-driven mental health and addictions issues within families.

Living with an annual income of less than $17,000 sustained only by social supports leaves no way for a family to get ahead or get beyond crippling poverty. Bolstering resiliency to help our children avoid falling prey to the sex trade and other pervasive street pressures, we are here to rescue and divert children.

As with all programs at Crystal Kids there would be no charge for participating in the Indigenous Learning Program and it would operate on a drop-in basis.

Crystal Kids makes programming and scheduling information available to several inner-city schools and agencies on a monthly basis so as to ensure that as many youth as possible are aware of what we offer.

Our first target for participants in the Indigenous Learning Youth Group is children currently participating at Crystal Kids. This program will be primarily of interest to youth with an Indigenous background but will also be open to all children regardless of background. We will also reach out to the larger inner-city community to attract children interested in learning about Indigenous ways but not currently attending Crystal Kids.