ARTICLE: Nakuset – Event Re-Cap by Muna Al-Mufti

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The Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi (Montréal-Centre-Ville) offers free and exclusive events and training sessions for its members. The Members’ Council chose the theme Urban Indigenous Issues for this year’s training sessions, which took place on Monday, April 18th on Zoom. The event featured guest speaker Nakuset, Executive Director the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. The objective of the session was to learn more about the topic while striving to become better allies to the Indigenous Population of Tiohtià:ke.

Citizen Journalist and Member of the Member’s Council, Muna Al-Mufti, recaps the event in her article.

“Use your power” by Muna Al-Mufti

May 19th, 2021

On April 19th, we had the opportunity to speak with Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, about taking action for Indigenous peoples in Montreal. The meeting, hosted by the CJE Montreal Centre-Ville, was held through zoom and open to the public.

Nakuset spoke of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, its adverse effects on the daily lives of Indigenous peoples everywhere in the country to this day, and how she is playing her part to improve the lives of Indigenous individuals in urban centres, doing the work that needs to be done to ensure a brighter future for generations to come.

The painful history of Indigenous people in Canada is often overlooked. For hundreds of years,

Indigenous land and communities have been exploited. The traditional way of life was killed, Indigenous people were snatched from their lands and forced onto reserves and into residential schools, and children were taken away from their families. Some might think of these issues as things of the distant past, but they are far from it; Canada’s dark history is much more recent than one might think; policies like the sixties scoop persisted into the 80’s, and residential schools were still running until 1996, which was only 25 years ago.

Indigenous communities deal with various effects of generational trauma, including high rates of substance abuse, mental health issues, and suicide rates that are among the highest in the world. Indigenous people also face a lot of racism, including blatant, and sometimes fatal, violent racism. We are all too familiar with the story of Joyce Echaquan. What is most heart-breaking is the fact that stories like this are a day-to-day reality for Indigenous people, not just isolated incidents.

The Sixties scoop saw thousands of children taken from their homes and placed into the child welfare system, from where they would be adopted by white families. Nakuset was personally affected by the sixties scoop, and speaks of how it has impacted her life and her identity. As a child, Nakuset was taken from her family, and adopted by a family in Montreal. Growing up, she struggled to find a place where she felt like she belonged, and left home at the age of 18 to learn about her identity as an Indigenous person.

Having witnessed the reality of how Indigenous people in Montreal were living, Nakuset felt a deep responsibility towards the Indigenous community and decided that she was going to do something about it. She got her education and started volunteering at the Native Women’s Shelter in 1999. Now, Nakuset runs the shelter, and does so much more.

Nakuset has dedicated her life to improving the lives of urban Indigenous folks and runs several initiatives that focus on helping and supporting them in the city. These initiatives include the Cabot Square Project, which offers health services, employment assistance, and events such as Aboriginal Fridays and Aboriginal Day at Cabot Square; the Iskweu project, which helps with the procedure to report missing and murdered indigenous women, and coordinates between families and the police; warming tents which have kept hundreds of Indigenous people warm this winter; Resilience Montreal; a day shelter near Cabot Square that provides a safe and supportive space for the community; future plans of opening other shelters, youth protection, and so much more.

“Use your power”

There are many systemic and social issues affecting Indigenous communities, making the enormity of the issues and their impacts overwhelming, so it’s easier for people to look away and not address them. As people who care about people we must use our power to bring awareness to the issues rather than ignore them and hope that they’ll go away. As someone with the power to make a difference, Nakuset uses that responsibility to the fullest. It is the only way to move things forward.

To become a member of Carrefour Jeunesse-Emploi Downtown Montreal, fill out the form or contact Viviane Cottle at vcottle@cjemontreal.org