David Jones, founder of Turtle Concepts, visited the Ma Mow We Tak Friendship Centre in Thompson on April 4 to speak to youth of the community about self-esteem and confidence.
Jones is an Ojibway man from Garden River First Nation, near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and is a former teacher who has operated Turtle Concepts for the past 17 years. This was Jones' second trip to Thompson, but the first in over eight years.
The lessons that Jones conveys are based around the aboriginal teachings that he was taught as a child, with a contemporary twist, keeping his audience engaged through group discussions and activities.
Turtle Concepts is an organization that travels around the world, promoting the idea of feeling good about yourself and restoring confidence in individuals.
"We try to remind people that they were born confident, and what has happened from that time until now may have destroyed or damaged or maintained their confidence," said Jones, "we're talking to these students about things like confidence, bullying, drugs and alcohol, and we're trying to spread good, positive messages."
Jones explained that many kids know and understand what the key words and phrases are when speaking about confidence and being a role model, but not necessarily know what it means to actually apply those things.
"The word role model can mean a number of things," said Jones, "not all role models are positive ones, there are negative role models as well."
Growing up on a First Nations reserve, Jones talked about the importance to reach out to aboriginal children across the country and in Thompson, and spoke about breaking out of stereotypes that may be set out.
"I know firsthand that it can be tough to live on a reserve," said Jones, "often times native people have this notion that they have to act tough outwardly, but I'm trying to teach these kids that you can be tough while still being friendly, or playful."
Students from the community ages 10 to 18 were in attendance to take in advice and teachings from Jones and two guest speakers from Ontario who were travelling with a him.
Jones' hope is to blur the line when it comes to race and behaviour, while spreading a message that it's OK to be proud of making healthy choices.
"Colour does not describe behavior, and it doesn't dictate confidence," said Jones, "I think the real message that I would like to pass on is that the new aboriginal person isn't afraid to be proud of their healthy choices and for them to become truly confident, they'll rejoice in their education and their social skills and manners; they won't make judgments based on history, they'll re-invent the history."