By Nicole Tornquist
The movie “The Grizzlies” is eye-opening. Yes, there is heartache, there are things no one will talk about. In the end though, this is what needs to be seen and heard.
Often, we try to sweep so much under the rug, away from the youth, away from the world. Trying to hide it like it’s not happening. This is not what “The Grizzlies” is all about, they show us real life events, that people in Northern isolated communities deal with every single day.
“The Grizzlies” tells the story of a teacher who goes to do his teaching practicum in a Northern isolated community where they have little of anything. He sees the community’s pain and hurt and wants to make a difference. Although many people in the community doubt him and tell him to stop what he is doing and leave things the way they have been for many years, he doesn’t stop. He believes in the youth and wants to give them something to look forward to, he wants to give them a reason to live. He starts the sport of Lacrosse within the community and gets the kids to join, they learn how to work as a team, try harder in school and get to go on the trip of a lifetime. No matter what doubt is thrown their way, they fight back harder and stronger to have the sport in the community and for it to be successful and to be successful within themselves.
The movie shows us things we don’t want to believe are happening because often we believe if we do not acknowledge what is happening around us that it is not really happening. We often think too that “this is just the way things are meant to be” or “this is way it’s always been” and there’s no room for change.
“The Grizzlies” does show us the heartache, the pain and the everyday lifestyle of the Northern isolated communities, but it also shows us how strong, amazing and loving our youth can be. I always told myself “all it takes is one person” and I strongly believe in that, as long as one person believes and fights for a change anything is possible. As long as the youth have someone in their corner they can do and be anything they want, and they will move mountains.
Growing up in a Northern community, I was never connected to my culture as I was on the town side of the community and I only just recently started coming home to Opaskwayak Cree Nation within the last 10 years. Although I did not grow up at home, growing up as an Indigenous youth was hard. This was never talked about and I was often lost, wondering why I felt the way I did. Resources are very limited, even to this day and when you do have the resources they don’t last long. There is a high turn-over rate for people that can help, which is very discouraging to anyone seeking help; there is no stability.
However, I always told myself I wanted to be that person who believed in the youth more then they believe in themselves, to help them move those mountains that are so hard to move. To help them not only help themselves but also create a ripple effect to help the other youth within the community and help me change the world.
“The Grizzlies” show you how strong our youth can be, how much love they have to give and how much determination they have inside them. Although they talk about suicide and other challenging topics, they show us how to cope, how to be stronger.
© Nicole Tornquist
In 2019, I became a National Ambassador of Hope for We Matter, an Indigenous youth-led organization dedicated to Indigenous youth support. I became the change maker, taking action and spreading awareness. We Matter has allowed me to deliver workshops on hardship and healing across school and communities in Northern Manitoba. We Matter has allowed me to live by example in order to inspire and connect with other indigenous youth, break mental health and suicide stigma and promote healthy communities.
There is one experience that will always stay with me when I think about my “We Matter” workshops and “The Grizzlies” movie: when I was trying to show the film in a community, some people said, “you are going to come here and talk about suicide and show them suicide and give them ideas and leave us to deal with the consequences.” This was absolutely heart breaking to hear as a change maker. It did not stop me though. It made me fight harder, because this is what we have to change. We have to be able to have these discussions with our kids, our youth, our future because if we don’t. Who will? We need to show them that it’s ok to talk about these feelings they have, it’s ok to ask for help and most importantly it’s ok to feel weak, but no matter how weak you feel you keep fighting, you keep moving those mountains that are so hard to move because one day you will succeed.
They need to know things like this are ok, because having these thoughts alone is the scariest thing, being scared to be judged.
“The Grizzlies” is one of the realest movies depicting the challenges that Northern communities face on a daily basis and this is what the youth need; for things to be real, they crave this. It shows them how to feel their emotions as well and how to process them.
Along with the heartache of this movie came the warriors we all have inside of us, the warriors our ancestors once were and the warriors we were meant to be. We are all stronger than we ever thought we were and this is just the beginning.
My Name is Nicole Tornquist, I am a 26-year-old Indigenous Women from Opaskwayak Cree Nation, located on the Traditional Treaty 5 Territory in Northern Manitoba. I am passionate about helping the youth become better than they ever thought they could be, being the person that believes in them and breaking stigmas that need to be broken within our communities in order to move forward. I became involved in We Matter when they did a call out for the first set of We Matter Ambassadors of Hope. A friend gave me the application and applying was the best decision I ever made. We Matter has allowed me to become stronger than I ever thought I could and has allowed me to help youth in the way I have always dreamed of. We Matter can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and the website www.wematter.org