Shailla - People of Pearson

"My name is Shailla Manitowabie. I am Indigenous and a proud Anishnaabe Kwe from the Ojibwe tribe. I come from Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve. I am an advocate for Indigenous rights and an international speaker for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as I went missing as a young girl. I have been a client of ENAGB (legally known as Eshkiniigjik Naandwechigegamig – A place for healing our youth / Aabiish Gaa Binjibaaying? – Where did we come from?) and have sat on the group’s Youth Council. I currently work at ENAGB as the Community Liaison. I have been with ENAGB for many years, growing and helping people who have been in the same or similar situations as me in the past.

As a young woman, I sat on the Youth Council of ENAGB. I bore witness to all of the amazing support over the years as an Indigenous youth and as a client, and that motivated me to be a part of the ENAGB Youth Council. I was able to create impactful change for the organization by using my voice. Helping others, especially my Indigenous brothers and sisters, is something that I am very passionate about.

My experience in the Indigenous community was very difficult. Although we are the first peoples of Canada, many Indigenous communities are dealing with racism and poverty. I was dealt both cards. I also didn’t know much about my culture. A lot of families did not know their culture since it was illegal to practice your culture or speak your language for centuries. This is why non-profits like ENAGB are so important. I was able to learn about who I was and who my ancestors were. 

Not all Indigenous People look and act the same. We have different colours and skin tones, and we have thousands of different tribes and languages. We all have different belief systems. We are all beautiful.

To me, National Indigenous History Month means standing proudly for who you are as an Indigenous person—knowing who you are, where you and your ancestors came from and honouring your culture. Being alive today as an Indigenous person is an act of defiance in and of itself. We are strong, and we are still here. 

The partnership between ENAGB and Toronto Pearson is very important as I believe it will benefit Indigenous communities by strengthening reconciliation efforts between Canadians and Indigenous communities. There are many injustices that are just beginning to come to the surface about how we have been treated. This is a pivotal moment in history, and we need our allies to stand strongly beside us. The world’s youth are watching us, and it is important to show people that we are all stronger together in unity than divided amongst each other in indifference."

- Shailla, Youth Council member at ENAGB*

*ENAGB is a partner of the Propeller Project, Toronto Pearson’s community investment program.

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