Toward Decolonizing the Nisga’a Constitution Through the Empowerment and Capacity Building of Youth

About the Author:

Kathryn B. McLeod

My Nisga’a name is Amgoogidim Lik’ińskw, my given name is Kathryn McLeod. I am Nisga’a on my mother’s side, and Gitxsan and Scottish on my father’s side. Being born into a matrilineal society, identify as a citizen of the Nisga’a Nation, as of May 2000, I have free from the constraints of the Indian Act. I am from the Village of Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh), I come from Wilps Gwisk’aayn, and my tribe is Gisk’ansnaat (white grizzly). However, I was born and raised in Ts’msyen territory (Prince Rupert, BC). I hold a Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Victoria, and as an alumni of the International Ocean Institute’s Ocean Governance: Policy, Law, and Management training programme (Dalhousie University), I am a member of the IOI Ocean Mafia. A geographer and social/cultural scientist by training, I currently work as Lands Officer for Nisga’a Lisims Government. I am incrediblty passionate about land sovereignty and body sovereignty, the consilience of traditional ecological knowledge and western science in research and decision-making, and most importantly, the empowerment of youth.

The Nisga’a Highway 113 is numbered after the 113-year struggle toward fighting for the full rights of self-government for the Nisga’a Nation.

Various colonial and legal tools under the Indian Act that aimed to assimilate our Nisga’a people into Canadian society, to strip us of our culture and identity, and to prevent our people from reaching our self-determination rights. These colonial and legal tools only served as hurdles that made our leaders stronger. And future generations are going to be better for the work they did.

Pre-contact, all Indigenous Nations were once prosperous societies, especially on the North Coast of British Columbia, on their own terms. With thriving cultures, restorative justice systems, respect and reciprocity for the lands and waters that provided abundant resources, and resource-management systems that sustained people for millennia. The Nisga’a Final Agreement is only the first step towards achieving sustainable prosperity in today’s society. Our current governing body, Wilp Si’ayuukhl Nisga’a (WSN), is closely modelled after the Elected Chief and Band Council system, and current Federal Parliament and Provincial Legislature.

However, in order to reach a sustainable prosperous state once again, a shift further away from the imposed Indian Act governance system is needed. WSN is unique in its multi-generational approach to uphold the principles of Ayuukhl Nisga’a. And a multi-generational approach, incorporating the voices of Nisga’a youth, is going to be required to decolonize and define the Nisga’a democracy on our own terms.

In this policy ask, I have attempted to define a starting point for forming a Nisga’a Youth Advisory Council by highlighting the importance and need for youth involvement in politics and governance—especially for Indigenous youth. As well, I identify some challenges that may be encountered in getting the Youth Advisory Council off the ground, and offer practical solutions for each hurdle.

It is my dream to have at least one representative of the Nisga’a Youth Advisory Council gain a permanent seat in the Wilp Si’ayuukhl Nisga’a with voting power. Today’s youth are our future. Young people deserve to have their voices and concerns heard at the table, and ultimately should have a say in the path that is steering our Nation.

About the Author:

Kathryn B. McLeod

My Nisga’a name is Amgoogidim Lik’ińskw, my given name is Kathryn McLeod. I am Nisga’a on my mother’s side, and Gitxsan and Scottish on my father’s side. Being born into a matrilineal society, identify as a citizen of the Nisga’a Nation, as of May 2000, I have free from the constraints of the Indian Act. I am from the Village of Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh), I come from Wilps Gwisk’aayn, and my tribe is Gisk’ansnaat (white grizzly). However, I was born and raised in Ts’msyen territory (Prince Rupert, BC). I hold a Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Victoria, and as an alumni of the International Ocean Institute’s Ocean Governance: Policy, Law, and Management training programme (Dalhousie University), I am a member of the IOI Ocean Mafia. A geographer and social/cultural scientist by training, I currently work as Lands Officer for Nisga’a Lisims Government. I am incrediblty passionate about land sovereignty and body sovereignty, the consilience of traditional ecological knowledge and western science in research and decision-making, and most importantly, the empowerment of youth.