Caitlin Tolley is Algonquin from Kitigan-Zibi, Quebec. She grew up on reserve and moved away to pursue her post-secondary education. Caitlin obtained a Bachelor of Social Science and a Juris Doctor from the University of Ottawa. During law school, Caitlin completed the intensive program in Aboriginal lands, Resources and Governments at Osgoode Hall Law School. She also worked in the office of Senator Murray Sinclair on Parliament Hill. Following, she articled at a large financial institution and completed a litigation secondment at a global law firm in Toronto. Caitlin is now currently working as Legal Counsel at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
Prior to attending law school, at the age of 21, Caitlin was the youngest person ever elected to Chief and Council in Kitigan-Zibi, Québec. She was also a member on the Assembly of First Nations National Youth Council. Caitlin was also recognized by the Public Policy Forum as the “Emerging Leader of the Year” in 2018. She is an accomplished public speaker and has given a TEDxTalk, spoken at We Day and has appeared before the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. She remains connected to her community and culture as a jingle dress dancer.
Caitlin has said: “As a young person, […] maintaining my culture and traditions is the most important issue impacting me. If I had the funding […] it would be to ensure that the next generation has and can still maintain our traditional teachings because we know that our languages are struggling. We know that elders are passing away with sacred knowledge. We know that the territory that we occupy is changing. [L]eaders today need to take the time to listen more and talk less. In my language we say “Kikinendam Nongom, Niganin Wabang,” which means ‘learn today and lead tomorrow’”.
Shawnee Lynn Talbot (alias She King)
Shawnee Kish is a Two-Spirit Mohawk musician. She uses her music to advocate for queer, Indigenous, youth, and mental health issues.
Shawnee Kish grew up in the Niagara region, and later moved to Toronto to pursue her music career. She has used her powerful voice as a form of activism, for example by creating anthems for youth and queer movements. In 2013, her song ‘Mirror Me’ quickly became an anthem advocating for the self-identity struggles many Indigenous youth face. Her latest single, ‘Warrior Heart’, raises proceeds for the We Matter Campaign. The campaign aims to end Canada’s youth suicide crisis by empowering Indigenous youth in Canada. Shawnee is also a motivational speaker. She uses her talents to speak about social and cultural issues like youth mental health, self-identity and Indigenous media representation.
Shawnee has said: “My culture inspires my music every day. I am proud to be a part of my family and proud to know that my family fights to keep our culture alive. My music career at times is a fight for my place and right as myself and being true to who I am was a gift learned and passed down from my mother.”
Jenna Chisholm is a youth coordinator at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax and is one of the contributors to a new book called We Are All One. The book brings together 18 biographical stories authored by young residents of various cultural backgrounds in the Halifax region.
Jenna’s ancestral roots are in Millbrook First Nation. But she was raised off reserve in Lower Sackville. The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre played an important support role in her life growing up, and she’s now giving back as the group’s youth coordinator where she organizes programming such as day camps, a backpack program, and oversees her Friendship Centre’s social media.
Jenna exhibits strong leadership skills, volunteerism, and is a positive role model in her community as a full-time student. Jenna is working towards a Bachelor of Communications with a minor in Canadian Studies and Public Policy. She is also the Vice-President of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) national Aboriginal Youth Council (AYC).
When asked about her role as a youth leader in addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls, Jenna stated the need for “a women’s program; creating a men-specific program for youth based on culture and vulnerability; [and] educating our youth on LGBTQ2S issues. Our drum does not discriminate, we allow youth of all gender identities to stand around the drum and sing and learn.”
Submit your own story to tell us what you’re doing to advocate for gender equality! And check out other advocates and their roll in gender equality