About Young Artist Warriors

Young Artist Warriors (YAW) has been working with youth, in small communities, through Aboriginal and Indigenous Education programs, and non-profit organizations since 2008. YAW’s mandate is to honour traditional knowledge, value systems and protocols while fostering positive identity development through the arts. YAW's workshops empower participants to create contemporary art pieces aimed at elevating both cultural esteem and personal self-esteem and to show that the two are intrinsically linked. YAW’s first project partnered with the Inter-Tribal Youth Centre of Montreal. Our idea was to connect multi-barrier, street-entrenched youth with cultural resources that would provide a supportive community and empower them to make healthy choices. Elder counselors, cultural camps, and ceremonies were made available for the participants, but the difficult part was the initial engagement with the youth participants. Relationships had to be built, and trust had to be established. I started looking for artists that could act as our connector – to add a contemporary art mentorship component in mediums that the youth could relate to, respect and understand. We enlisted First Nations graffiti artists, hip-hop producers and rappers to join the project and mentor the youth. All of these mentors had stories about coming from hardship, and finding empowerment in refining a craft, or “taking care of their sacred gift” by living a clean life and mastering what they were passionate about. It was through the art component of the projects that the participants felt safe to delve into the deeper teachings and reflect on their lives and how they had been affected by colonization. From here, our workshop series were born. All workshops are based on the teaching that each and every human is born with a sacred gift. It is up to us to discover what we are passionate about, nurture our potential, and contribute our gift to the greater community. In this way, we find balance in our lives as we are fulfilling our purpose and fostering a healthy relationship with the world around us. Another founding concept of our workshops is Intergenerational Resilience, or the strength through our bloodlines. While education on history, and the effects of colonization and intergenerational trauma is essential, a complementary focal point must be made on intergenerational resilience. This strength-based, culturally relevant concept should be regarded in high importance as it represents First Nations people surviving, flourishing and regaining their identity despite acts of colonization. It is the passing down of our ancestral gifts, sacred law, traditional teachings and ceremony. This concept aids in the creation of inner resources from which to draw strength. This inner and collective resilience could be used as a tool to aid in personal and community health. These programs have now been implemented across Canada: in various workshops for First Nations conferences, school programs and in different First Nations communities. We also believe in sharing our work with teachers and facilitators who will take these empowering concepts into the classroom. This way more remote community leaders can be trained to facilitate the material. The curriculums discussed here meet the learning outcomes for Grade 4, Grade 7 Health and Career, Grade 10 Social Studies, Planning 10, BC First Nations 12, and any other course that has a First Nations, self-reflection, and/or and wellness component.
Ekosani (Thank You