Assembly of First Nations Announces Winners of all-expense paid trip to National First Nations Youth Summit in Winnipeg

    OTTAWA, Oct. 29 /CNW Telbec/ - The Assembly of First Nations and the AFN
Youth Council are pleased to announce the names of nine First Nations youth
essay writers who have won an all-expense paid trip to the 3rd First Nations
National Youth Summit, being held in Winnipeg, October 30 to November 1, 2007.
    "It is inspiring to our leaders, Elders and all citizens in our nations
to see our youth pour their passion and energy into advancing the goals of our
nations and expressing their hope for the future," said National Chief
Phil Fontaine. "On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations I offer them my
heartfelt congratulations on their award-winning essays."
    "As a council, we understand the challenge we put forward to those who
have entered the contest. It was absolutely inspiring to hear what we can be
as youth, as First Nations and how we can work better toward a prosperous
future," said Travis Boissoneau, the Assembly of First Nations National Youth
Council, Ontario Male Representative. The importance of listening to youth
perspectives and involving us is growing and being recognized by First Nation
and non-First Nation leadership. We commend all contestants and look forward
to meeting the successful winners."
    The Assembly of First Nations launched the contest in September, asking
youth aged 18 to 29 to write a short essay expressing their vision of the
summit's theme: "Rebuilding Our Nations - National Unity, Voices from the

    The nine winners are:

    Daniel McKennitt, of the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation;

    Rachel Sangwais, of the Sakimay First Nation in Saskatchewan;

    Janice Makokis of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in northeastern Alberta;

    Joseph Dore, of the Ginoogaming First Nation in Northern Ontario;

    Jessica Veinot of the Dene Nation of Lutsel K'e in the Northwest

    Ben Powless Mohawk of the Six Nations Grand River Territory in
    Southwestern Ontario;

    Mahogany McGuire, of the Ojibwa Gull Bay First Nation, in Northern

    Martial Pinette, of the Naskapi Nation in northeastern Quebec;

    Dakota Brant, Mohawk of the Six Nations Grand River Territory in
    Southwestern Ontario.

    Hundreds of youth aged 18 to 29 are expected to turn up for the 3rd
National Youth Summit, hosted by the AFN National Youth Council, a chance for
youth to follow up to the June 29 National Day of Action.
    The summit will produce a Five Year Action Plan to address challenges and
opportunities facing First Nations youth, such as: suicide prevention,
addictions prevention, preserving First Nations culture and economic
    Youth will also grade a report card to assess how well First Nations,
Provincial/Territorial and Federal leaders have responded to their first
Action plan, issued ten years ago.

    About the Winners

    Daniel McKennitt, 24, comes from the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, in
southern Manitoba. Inspired by his mother, a residential school survivor and
breast cancer survivor, Daniel became interested in improving the health and
success of Aboriginal youth in all aspects of life. This led Daniel to study
medicine at the University of Alberta. Before this, Daniel completed his
Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Alberta with a double major in
Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Previously working with institutions such
as the University of Alberta, Alberta Advanced Education, and Canadian
Heritage, Daniel brings a wealth of knowledge in regards to working with
Aboriginal youth to achieve their goals. Daniel is also one of twelve
National Aboriginal Health Organization Youth Role Models of 2006-2007. His
essay Community Capacity Building: Away to a New Future for First Nations
Youth examines ways First Nations can advance their self-governance over
health issues.
    Rachel Sangwais is 26 years old and resides on the Sakimay First Nation
in Saskatchewan. She has worked as a band councilor for her community in the
Governance Justice Department and is currently employed with her First Nation
as a Youth Worker. She is active in developing programming for youth in the
community and is a Chairperson for a Youth Advisory Committee. Her essay
Creating an Identity argues that youth must be connected to their culture,
history and involved in politics from the very beginning so they can learn to
interact with all ages and understand governance processes.
    Born and raised on the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in northeastern Alberta,
Janice Makokis has worked closely with respected community Elders, political
leaders and Indigenous academics to build her Indigenous epistemological
framework. Her strong cultural foundation guides her in the work she does
personally, professionally and academically. After finishing a thesis on 'Cree
Women and Self Determination' for a Master's degree in Indigenous Governance
through the University of Victoria, Janice enrolled in law school. She also
holds a B.A. degree in Native Studies/ Political Science from the University
of Alberta. Janice has been involved in a number of community programs,
including working with various youth committees both local and national as a
way to provide an Indigenous youth perspective to issues directly impacting
youth. Her essay Seeking and Practicing 'Iyiniw Pahminsowin': An Individual
and Collective Journey" weaves her own healing journey into the history of the
Blue Quill's First Nation College, a former residential school that was
transferred to First Nations control in 1971. Janice is currently living in
    Joseph Dore is originally from Ginoogaming First Nations in Northern
Ontario. He is 25 years old and a proud Two-Spirited youth. Joseph currently
resides in San Francisco, California, participating in an Indigenous
Fellowship Program with the Rainforest Action Network which is an
Environmental Non-Profit Organization that works with communities to address
issues pertaining to saving old growth and rainforests around the world.
Joseph has worked with First Nations and Aboriginal youth in urban centres
across Canada, and has been a strong advocate for the rights and equality for
two-spirit peoples in First Nations communities and a facilitator for
two-spirit awareness. He is currently the co-chair for the "Young Eagles
Challenge" which is a First Nations youth group of facilitators who facilitate
and provide the training of the Peer Education Manual for First Nations youth
on HIV/AIDS and related issues. Joseph's essay examines the role of respect
and truth in the healing journey of First Nations Youth.
    Jessica Veinot, was born in the Dene Commuity of Lutsel K'e in the
Northwest Territories. She was put into care shortly after her birth and
adopted into a non-native family who relocated to Nova Scotia. Her adoptive
family loved and cared for her, but she knew little about her heritage or
identity until a phone call changed her life. It was her biological sister
calling to meet her. Jessica's essay traces her personal journey to recapture
her identity as a Dene woman, leading the reader to a reunion with her dying
biological mother. Although Jessica could never speak directly to the woman
who gave birth to her, as they could not understand each other's language, she
remembers the experience as "the best day of my life and I will keep it
forever in my soul." Today, Jessica is 24 years old and studying child and
youth care at Nova Scotia Community College. She hopes to work with Aboriginal
youth on issues such as suicide, addictions and poverty and is a firm believer
that programs aimed at Aboriginal youth must integrate cultural awareness.
Jessica lives in Halifax.
    Ben Powless, 21, is a Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario. He is currently
in his second year studying Human Rights, Indigenous Studies and Environmental
Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, after having completed a year in an
international exchange program, studying sustainable rural development between
Alberta and Mexico. He has been involved with the local Aboriginal community
through the Odawa Native Friendship Centre and on-campus groups, and has
worked extensively with the youth environmental movement. He aspires to
eventually work in national and international issues involving indigenous
rights, human rights and their interplay with the environment. Ben's essay A
Sustainable Vision for Future Generations takes a holistic approach to
sustaining the environment, First Nations cultures and rights. Ben is living
in Ottawa.
    Mahogany McGuire, 22, is an Ojibwa woman of the Caribou Clan, from the
Gull Bay First Nation, in northern Ontario. She often volunteers to support
her community's activities and also volunteers for the Lakehead University
Native Student Council. Mahogany grew up off-reserve near Thunder Bay, and
recognized the need to incorporate First Nations culture and history into the
mainstream school curriculum. This inspired Mahogany to studying at
Lakehead University, in the Native Teachers Education Program. She is also an
award-wining pianist and a jingle dress dancer. Her essay Vision of the
Future/The Future Generation combines her personal vision with advocacy for
political rights, social justice and culturally competent education.
    Martial Pinette, 22, is originally from the Kawawachikamach reserve in
northeastern Quebec, part of the Naskapi Nation. Martial has lived both on and
off-reserve. In December 2006, he was elected to represent youth on the board
of Directors at the Native Friendship Centre in Sept-Iles. On March 2007, at a
special Naskapi Band Council meeting, he was elected as the youth
representative on the Board of Directors for the Naskapi Local Management
Board and Economic Development Organization. Martial believes that improving
youth self-esteem is key to preventing drug and alcohol abuse.
    Dakota Brant, 20, is Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan hailing from Six Nations
of the Grand River Territory. She is a second year student of Trent University
and of Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna, where she is taking full immersion studies in
the Mohawk language. She is currently working toward her BA Honours Degree in
Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Environmental Studies, with a specialization
in the Mohawk Language. In her essay Onkwawenna ne Onkwasastenhsera, Dakota
explains that she could not speak her own language three years ago. Her essay
advocates the importance of language to her people, their ceremonies and her
own personal life. "I stand by my belief, from my own personal experience that
when you learn your language, half of the culture comes with it, as well as
100 percent understanding," she writes. Dakota currently resides in Deseronto.

For further information:

For further information: Karyn Pugliese, Communications Officer, Health
Secretariat, (613) 241-6789, ext 210, (613) 292-1877,

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