Young Indigenous people around the world are advocating to restore their cultural identity and implanting new life into ancestral languages through connecting traditional knowledge, values, and ways of life to everyday practices. They are creating awareness of the land we live in, researching the history and bridging the gaps of information with lived knowledge from their ancestors. This year’s recipient of the Shirley Case Leadership Award, Hannah Martin, is an inspirational and dedicated Indigenous rights advocate. Hannah has dedicated her work to reclaiming ancestral links with the land and unfolding her cultural identity towards finding her roots.
Each year the recipient of the Shirley Case Leadership Award (SCLA) for Global Citizenship is an exemplary individual, who displays the spirit of global citizenship in a local, national or international capacity from the Atlantic Provinces. Hannah was nominated for the award by Kathryn Anderson, the founder of The Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS), which is a voluntary network of people in the Maritimes, organized since 1988 to support the efforts of Guatemalans struggling for political, social, and economic justice.
When Hannah started university, she took up social science, majoring in an Indigenous study program. While studying, Hannah volunteered with the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, participating in the 2016 BTS Guatemala Delegation, followed by a three-month volunteer placement with BTS’s partner organization – Rabinal Maya-Achi, New Hope Secondary School for the grandchildren of genocide victims and survivors. Hannah says that she found similarities with the struggles of Indigenous youth in Guatemala and at home.
“Hannah, through her advocacy work, is motivated into linking indigenous culture, values and environmental justice movement struggles in Mi'kma'ki with global indigenous movements.” - Kathryn Anderson
Hannah grew up in Brule, which is eight km east of NS, and currently resides in Tatamagouche, also known as the “A little crossing place.” She is a member of the Millbrook First Nation community and has worked tirelessly for the last few years towards raising awareness of Indigenous rights. She is involved with ceremonies in her community and in the spiritual ways of reclaiming their land. She is working on building knowledge as it pertains to her relationship to “The land.” As she says, “The land we live in, has a very significant meaning to our lives, it is resourceful, and it grounds us to our ancestral roots, provides livelihood, protection and abundance of gifts.” For Hannah, it is important to harness her identity, through her professional capacity, academic knowledge and daily practices, because her language, her culture, and the land bear generations of ancestral wisdom required to live with contentment.
Currently, Hannah is learning the Mi'kmaw language from her grandmother, a language she describes as very descriptive, through which she grounds herself. She says there is missing information about her ancestral history that she learned later in her life, through research on her own, looking up books outside of her curriculum. This prompted her to keep digging deeper. She says: "Once you learn about genocide and oppression historically, we then do not have the privilege to ignore it." Her school textbooks had little to no information on residential schools, genocide and dispossession of land; so she started scouring for information elsewhere, she says, “I would buy indigenous study books just to read them.” She wanted to learn and spread awareness to indigenous and non-indigenous youth about privilege, racism and discrimination while forming her own understanding along the way.
Hannah’s drive to bring about awareness, and not shy away from the conversation, gained momentum when she joined the Peace and Friendship Program at the Tatamagouche Centre. This included bringing together indigenous and settler youth to collaborate on indigenous struggles for justice. On October 1st, 2018, Treaty Day in NS, Hannah received the Chief Noel Doucette Youth Achievement Award, for her leadership qualities and academic achievements. Hannah was chosen to represent the Wabanaki Peace and Friendship Youth Alliance as a Delegation Member to the UN Indigenous Forum for two years.
Hannah’s leadership skills, along with her commitment to both learning and sharing indigenous knowledge and language, led her to become the Mainland Mi'kmaq Confederacy Nuji Kelo’toqatijik Earth Keeper Network Project Coordinator, leading teams of Mi'kmaq youth. As an Earth keeper, she is working with youth and elders, protecting the land, and fostering tangible and meaningful support to her community, and protecting indigenous rights. In the future, she wants to see healthy healing communities, where people in her community love, and are proud, of who they are. Where they reclaim ancient knowledge, they work on becoming harvesters, they have complete food security and food sovereignty. For her, having access to healthy land, land that is abundant with good food, clean coastlines and natural medicines, would be the biggest symbol of resilience and strength as a community.
Globally, young Indigenous leaders of positive social change, like Hannah, are taking the lead in showing ways to live respectfully on Earth. Hannah’s advocacy work has been incorporating non-traditional and substantial approaches, but not limited to geographic boundaries like her peers. She wants to connect with other young leaders from around the world to build stronger voices and address common issues. Ask difficult questions, such as: “As indigenous people everywhere, what does land mean for them, the connection to the land, and is it the place where the healing will come from?” All this could be answered with more access to knowledge and cross-border connections through experience sharing. Hannah wants to amplify Indigenous youth voices and stories, by creating space and opportunity for Canadians to celebrate and honour the voices and experiences of Indigenous youth globally. From Crossing the little place to crossing borders, and acknowledging the shared responsibility of the past and the future, Hannah is well on her way to challenging the status quo. We at ACIC, are humbled to have Hannah be our Shirley Case Leadership Award Recipient for 2021, and we look forward to her future achievements and milestones!