Prayers in a sweat lodge from women in Saskatoon. That's how Zondra Roy, who also goes by Zoey, began her journey to Vancouver to meet with the highest-ranking representatives of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Roy comes from humble beginnings. She is a spoken word poet, orator, and community based educator. She left home at an early age and was in and out of detention centres until she was 15.
"I learned it wasn't a coincidence that I was in the system because everybody else that was in the system was Indigenous. And everyone who had decision making power over us were non-Indigenous."
She says she came to the conclusion that if she was truly a "rebel" she had to find a cause and fight for it. "Or I'd just become another statistic."
Now 27, she is pursuing a degree in education at the University of Saskatechewan. She says the invitation came as a surprise after merely mentioning out loud in her class she was teaching that she'd love to have a meeting with Trudeau.
"While in class I said out loud, 'I want to meet with Justin Trudeau.' Not just to hear him speak but so I could speak with him and share ideas." She says the invitation itself came from the Prime Minister's Office through Senator Lillian Dyck's assistant. And although she's happy to be included, Roy says she doesn't want the meeting to be merely lip-service.
"It took many generations to get here. I feel good. A woman prayed for me in the sweat lodge, to make sure I am speaking the truth and representing my generations."
Roy says it's significant that someone like herself be invited to an event like this. "It is because of our ancestors' resiliency why we are able to have a voice and a presence today. They worked really hard for us to disappear and we're still here. So obviously we're here for a reason."She says a meeting like this is long overdue and she intends to bring issues that directly affect Indigenous youth to the forefront of the conversation. "I represent Indigenous women of today. Some whose voices are still not heard."
She says she intends on holding people like Trudeau and the royals accountable to the promises they've made to the the Indigenous people of Canada.
"I prayed to my ancestors' voices to define what the purpose of this visit is. I also reached out to leaders in the community, chiefs, and other leaders who helped ground me."
Roy says she still keeps in mind the role of the royals and prime minister Trudeau.
"Recognizing as an Indigenous person, I am going to meet with the Crown, representatives of the Crown and the colonizers. So there has to be forgiveness."
When asked about who has to do the forgiving and why—Roy's voice cracks and wavers a bit. "I have to do the forgiveness and be hopeful because no matter what angle you look at it—they are still the colonizers and they still have the goal to colonize."
Roy says she hopes the meeting with the royals and Trudeau is one of mutual education and understanding. She says one of her goals is to work with Trudeau's youth council.
"I'm an advocate for Indigenous education so we can at least give young people a chance."
"I'm trying to let them know that the Indigenous ways of knowing needs to be held in equally high regard as the colonizers see their power."
Roy will be meeting with Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prime Minister Trudeau today in Vancouver at an invitation-only panel with other young Canadians at the Telus Garden Centre from 11 AM to 3 PM.
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