“I went back to school so I could be useful to my people… to set an example for my children and young people in the community,” explains Miguel.
A forward-looking, thoughtful and analytical young man, he is taking on the challenge of completing his law degree at the Université de Sherbrooke so that he can play a role in supporting the future development of his people. Having grown up in the Atikamekw community of Wemotaci in the heart of Québec’s boreal forest, he has nurtured big dreams, as he closely follows the dialogue between governments and indigenous peoples.
Running is part of his routine, and he plays intramural hockey at the Université de Sherbrooke on the law school’s team. Inspired by the indigenous runner Brad Firth from the Northwest Territories, in September 2016 he ran 185 km from Odanak to Wendake, Québec, to support the cause of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Once the student council president in Grade 11 and 12, Miguel the young activist is well-known in the Atikamekw Nation for founding Mouvement Jeunesse Atikamekw.
Key issues such as the recognition and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is already recognized by the government of British Columbia, are also a focal point of discussion among young indigenous activists at Québec universities. The declaration addresses issues such as ancestral rights and the inherent right to self-government on ancestral lands — factors that will help determine the future of the country’s indigenous nations.
“Our way of life, which involves a strong family structure and the ability to properly manage the land in terms of both the sustainability of resources and access, is crucial to the future of communities,” states Miguel.
“Federal and provincial governments should also open up decision-making processes to indigenous peoples and ensure harmonious management of natural resources in collaboration with indigenous nations. Supporting the education of young people and facilitating access to university and other post-secondary studies are pivotal.”
This young leader noted for his determination and courage has a simple message for youth: “Do your best at school, set ambitious goals for yourself and seize your opportunities.”