Kuun Jaadas of the Ts’aahl Laanas clan / Adeana Young says she decided to run for the Green Party to be an advocate for Indigenous rights and to continue to be a steward of the air, land and sea, as her people have done since time immemorial. Photo provided by Adeana Young

Haida woman runs in Canadian federal election during ‘pivotal time’

“I know who I am, I know where I come from, and I know exactly what I’m getting myself into,” says Adeana Young, newly appointed candidate for the Green Party of Canada.
Jul 15, 2021

Adeana Young, a member of the Haida Nation, has been appointed to be the Green Party of Canada candidate for the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding, a huge riding in northwestern B.C. that spans a number of Indigenous territories, including Wet’suwet’en. 

Young, who’s 36 years old, born and raised in her homelands on Haida Gwaii, says she’s getting into “the belly of the beast” for Indigenous people to “be heard and recognized.”

“I’m taking my cultural identity into a structure that wanted us not to exist,” Young tells IndigiNews over the phone. 

“We’re two worlds that have to walk together — Canada being a capitalist country and Indigenous people being the stewards of the air, land and sea — neither of us are going anywhere and we have to be heard, we have to talk to each other, we have to learn how to walk together.”

Young, who’s a mother of four and a “fisherman’s wife,” has spent the last decade involved in politics in her community to some degree.

Ten years ago, she was hired by the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) as a staff support for the Heritage and Natural Resources Department where she stayed for four years. This was when CHN was at the beginning of developing a joint decision-making framework with the province of B.C., she says. The historic Kunst’aa Guu–Kunst’aayah Reconciliation Protocol, signed in 2009 requires that land-use decisions are shared between the two governments, recognizing the Nation’s right to ensure development on Haida Gwaii reflects Haida laws and values.

From 2016 to 2018 she sat on the Old Massett Village Council (OMVC), one of two village councils on Haida Gwaii, as a council member, a two year term. In 2019 she was acclaimed to the position of school board trustee with School District 50 on Haida Gwaii. She ran again in the 2019 by-election for OMVC and was successful. 

“I jumped at the opportunity to be a representative on external portfolios, which means, even though I was on the OMVC, I still had a seat with CHN committees,” she explains. 

In these gatherings, Young witnessed negotiation processes between the CHN and the both levels of the Canadian government around the management of natural resources. 

“I was able to experience those meetings and gatherings with ministers, and hear what it’s like to negotiate the protection of natural resources, and how it would affect me as an everyday person, a mom, a wife, a daughter,” she says. “I was able to really find my roots, my cultural identity of being Haida.”

She had barriers along the way, but says she never felt deterred.

“I want to just keep going and going and going,” Young says. “Like our ancestors did, like marginalized people have done. I want to be a part of change, to influence a positive outcome for people around me.”

Young says she’s always felt a natural connection to the Green Party, and the concerns they express in their platform.

“They speak up for the environment and are a voice for protecting the resources that don’t have a voice, in regards to how to keep practices sustainable,” she says. “That’s what the stewards of the air, land and sea have done since time immemorial.”

Adeana Young played a leading role in the 2018 film SG̲aawaay Ḵ’uuna (Edge of the Knife), the first full-length feature film entirely in the Haida language, alongside her husband and children. Photo provided by Young

‘A pivotal time’

As graves continue to be uncovered on residential institution sites across the country, Young says Canada is in a “pivotal time,” a time of “transitioning from intergenerational trauma to generational healing.”

“My healing is to know who I am and where I come from, and recognize the resiliency I have as an Indigenous woman,” she says. 

“To move into a government that practiced genocide on us — and we still feel that oppression — to run in a federal election with the Green Party, where their dynamic is so diverse, where they represent marginalized communities, trying to be the voice for natural resources — it’s so big.”

While she kept her decision to run for the Green Party mostly quiet, she announced it to her family and friends on social media this week. She’s received a lot of positive feedback and support, she says, but has faced some reasonable doubt and questioning as well. She recognizes that the Canadian political landscape hasn’t always been a positive space for Indigenous women, but she knows what she’s getting herself into, she says.

“I know who I am, I know where I come from, and I know exactly what I’m getting myself into,” she says. 

On July 1, Young says she sang Haida songs, harvested berries, cried, spoke with her family and wore a traditional headband and orange shirt. She thought of herself as an Indigenous woman and everything she is “after that,” : “A registered Indian band member, and a constituent citizen,” and the responsibilities she feels in her life and work.

While “politics is not for everybody,” she says she’s resolved to “jump at every opportunity,” presented to her, recognizing that in a Nation composed of many Nations, “we don’t know what we don’t know,” and that “we are sharing space.”

“I can advocate, share knowledge, listen with open ears, have a willingness to learn, and work to make informed decisions,” she says. 

“I offer to share with you my time and what I know, and I ask for you the same.”