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Focus Forward for Indigenous Youth

Cause: Education


Cedric Pepelea


[email protected]

About Us:

As program facilitators, we provide Indigenous students with the opportunity to develop hands on skills by working on community projects from start to finish. Project specifics are strategically selected by the community, ensuring the community can find their own unique solution. As a non-for-profit organization, we help communities find their solution and deliver the required resources.

Focus Forward will source teachers, contractors, and resources bringing everyone together to build the shared project for the local community. In building the project, students will gain hands-on work experience, obtain high school credits, earn apprenticeship hours, and even receive a compensation package for their work. Throughout the process, students will cultivate leadership skills, work ethic, and a sense of confidence that will help them focus forward on a positive and engaged future.

Focus Forward was created on 5 pillars that make up the structure of the organization:

1. Empowerment

2. Collaboration

3. Empathy

4. Innovation

5. Sustainability

Our process and these pillars are best explained from the perspective of the youth and the communities themselves.

For the youth, these programs can be an opportunity of a lifetime. Far too often Indigenous youth fail to complete their education because they neither enjoy it nor understand its importance – as a result, they become disengaged and isolated. These programs are an opportunity to re-engage and empower the youth through hands-on learning opportunities that can invoke a passion they never knew existed. Through close mentorship and hard, satisfying work the students will have the opportunity to learn more about themselves, their capabilities, and what their future can be like. These students will walk away inspired by the idea of building themselves and their community a brighter future.

Our Story:

Acknowledging the traditional territory in which Focus Forward is situated on, one must recognize it’s longer history, dating back to the earliest establishments of European colonies. In doing this, Focus Forward acknowledges the Indigenous peoples that lived, and continue to live on this earth today. We acknowledge, and appreciate the practices and spiritualties that were tied to the land, and that continue to be tied to the land today.

Acknowledging the land is important. In order to recognize that we, as settlers and as people who are not part of First Nations or Indigenous groups, are here on their land. Focus Forward for Indigenous youth recognizes that to think about land activation and land acknowledgement is to remember that there are rich Indigenous governances that still exist, and that are ongoing into the future.

In order to acknowledge this traditional territory, one must recognize it’s longer history, dating back to the earliest of establishments of European colonies. In doing this, it acknowledges the Indigenous peoples who lived, and who continue to live upon it, as well as whose practices and spiritualties were once tied to the land, and to this day continue to develop in relationship to the territory, and the other inhabitants that are present today.

In the early 1600s, the first Europeans arrived in Southern Ontario along the north shore of Lake Ontario, which was originally known as Katarokwi (Kingston). This area was home to both the Huron-Wendat Peoples and the Haudenosaunee (pronounced: Hoe-den-oh-‘show-nee) people of the Five Nations/Iroquois confederacy, and spoke related Iroquoian languages.

As well, another population of Indigenous peoples inhabited the land, and are known as the Anishinaabek (pronounced A-nish-in-‘a-beg), meaning Original People or Good People in their language known as Anishinaabemowin. The Anihshinaabek lived along the St. Lawrence, around the Great Lakes and what is now Northern Ontario, Michigan, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Minnesota. The Anishinaabek is made up of the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Odawa (Ottawa), Chippewa, Mississauga, Saulteaux, Nipissing and Algonquin people, however the area was specifically inhabited by the Mississauga and Algonquin peoples.

The Anishinaabek peoples all speak the Anishinaabemowin language, which is a member of the Algonquian language family.

In 1758, the British established a more permanent colony along the north shore of Lake Ontario, particularly in the Kingston area. The Mississauga peoples gave up their land in Kingston and the surrounding territory to the British Crown in 1783 with the signing of the Crawford Purchase. While trading between the Iroquois Confederacy and Anishinaabek peoples continued in Kingston, sympathizers with the British during the American Revolution of 1776 moved into Upper Canada, which continued into the early 1800’s.

The Iroquois Six Nations Confederacy, meaning People of the Longhouse, have five communities that range across southern Ontario, eastern Quebec and south into New York State. The Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte is the closest First Nations reserve community to Kingston and the only government-recognized territory within the Kingston area. Today, the Anishinaabek and Haudenosaunee continue to represent the Indigenous population in Kingston. As well, there is a significant Metis population in the area, and other First peoples from other Nations across Turtle Island.

Mission Statement:

Focus Forward’s mission is to collaborate with Indigenous communities across Canada, empowering youth through locally developed trades-based education to strengthen Individuals’ and communities’ futures.

We aren’t trying to provide just any opportunity – we facilitate life-changing programs that will make an immediate impact on the youth and their communities.