Standing backstage at the live telecast of the EleV of the Mastercard Foundation launch, Chante Speidel waited for her name to be called. “It was nerve-wracking”, she says. “I had no idea what questions they’d ask.”
She was about to be interviewed live on APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network). The network was broadcasting the celebration held in Toronto across Canada and beyond in October 2022. There wasn’t an opportunity to rehearse an answer, so she had to focus on staying calm and being confident in speaking on the interview topics: Indigenous youth, education, and the future. Despite the pressure she remembers in that moment, Chante looks back on it as one of the highlights in a list of similar experiences she’s had.
“It was exciting to be backstage and meet the other youth ambassadors.”, she tells us. Chante was surprise to be selected as one of the ambassadors – EleV asked youth from each of their partners across Canada to be a representative and speak at the event that night. When asked why she thought she was selected, she replied, “I’m not sure…”. A humble response from someone whose list of involvement and achievements is not a short one.
Chante has just completed her 3rd year as a student in the B.A. Indigenous Studies program at the University of Saskatchewan. She also recently joined the Oyateki Partnership’s central office team part-time as the Youth Advisor, leading the Youth Advisory Circle. She became involved with Oyateki in the spring of 2022 with the encouragement of Janice Linklater at Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies and knowing that the Partnership’s mission benefits Indigenous youth.
Chante started getting involved in activities involving Indigenous culture and movements at an early age. Both her parents are educators and her father is a powwow dance troupe leader and MCs many events. She has been dancing, “…since I could walk”, she says, and toured the pow-wow circuits around the province and elsewhere with her father for years. Over time she has become an accomplished jingle dress dancer, winning awards nationally and internationally.
Life has been rich in a cultural sense. In addition, Chante has become a Youth Pipe Carrier and a SunDancer. Beyond involvement in the arts her passion lies in youth advocacy, and she has become a leader and ambassador in her own right.
While she was in high school, the AFN ( Assembly of First Nations) invited Indigenous youth to join them as Carriers of Hope at the 2015 gathering in Ottawa and Toronto. Chante volunteered and travelled to the capitol to participate. She found she was drawn to support and advocacy for youth and their role and position at these events. She was inspired to speaking at the events, promoting for youth to have a voice, to be heard and not to just be listeners.
The Carriers of Hope opportunity led to more of the same events during her high school years, and she became known over time as a true ambassador for her demographic. While her experience and confidence grew she remained modest throughout, which has become another respectable trait she carries.
When Chante’s high school grade 12 class reached graduation time, the world was in the midst of COVID and all its regulation. That disappointingly meant no ceremony and no cap and gown. She’s really looking forward to a year from now to finally enjoy the feeling of walking across a stage for that moment. Beyond that experience, she has no solid plans for the future just yet.
She developed her own organization centered around youth during the pandemic, called Techa Oaye (Lakota, meaning ‘youth transitioning into leadership’). The purpose is to host gatherings of youth, for youth. Having held two successful virtual events already, she is hoping to more of the same post-graduation, possibly taking the events to a national level.
Judging from her track record in what most would say was developed in a very short time, the future looks bright for Chante. No matter where she applies her learnings and skills, we know the youth around her are in good hands.
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