The 8th Fire Youth Conference was held in Thompson March14-16 at the Royal Canadian Legion.
The event was hosted by Gord Petruic from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Youth Secretariat and CBC, and was attended by special guest speakers Adam Beach and Wab Kinew.
8th Fire is a prophecy that decrees it’s time for aboriginal peoples and the settler community to come together. It is a revolutionary video series that was shown on the CBC.
Petruic says he was hooked after seeing the first episode, and the series inspired him to take it a step further.
“I was lucky enough to be invited to Wab Kinew’s screening of the 8th Fire in Winnipeg,” said Petruic, “after the first episode I was hooked, and then I watched the other three, and when it was done I felt like there needed to be more.”
The 8th Fire videos had generated a great deal of buzz among aboriginal people, and was a pleasant change from a lot of negative stigmas that have surrounded them.
“It was the first time we were seeing our people in a positive light on television,” said Petruic, “and this was on in primetime, up against Montreal Canadiens games and things like that, so it was pretty overwhelming.”
Petruic works for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Youth Secretariat and puts on events throughout the year, spreading positive messages. The message brought forth at 8th Fire was one of reconciliation and healing.
“I’ve grown up as an aboriginal person, hearing what’s being said about non-aboriginal, and I’ve been on the other side of the fence, hearing what’s said about aboriginal people by non-aboriginals,” said Petruic, “so much of it is not true, but because we hear it we believe it. This was about reconciling with ourselves first, to see ourselves in a positive light.”
Gord explained that there has been too much negative light shed on things like alcoholism and violence and crime in aboriginal communities.
“If that’s all we ever see or hear about ourselves, then that’s what we start to believe we are,” said Petruic, “it’s time to change that, and start loving ourselves.”
CBC personalities, Wab Kinew and Adam Beach attended as guest speakers; Kinew is a CBC radio host as well as hip-hop artist, while Beach is an actor on the CBC program Arctic Air.
One could argue that Beach is the more recognizable name and face, but Petruic says the kids flocked more so to Kinew.
“It was funny actually because the kids seemed a lot more drawn to what Wab was saying,” said Petruic, “Adam (Beach) is more of my generation, and Wab is that younger generation and I guess the kids just have an easier time relating to him because they’ve grown up through some of the same stuff.”
The conference in Thompson was a building ground, or pilot of sorts, with the hope of building upon it for more events like it.
“We didn’t have as much of a non-aboriginal crowd this time out, and that’s something we’d like to look at for next time,” said Petruic, “right now though there are so many directions we can go in and so many questions to ask. This one was a great success and I think the kids got a lot from it, so we’ll have to go back and look at what we can do to keep this going.”