Day 13!- Sylena

Waking up to aztec dancing with Candonache was a energizing and amazing way to start the day! I am so grateful for the knowledge and wisdom he has shared with us all and everything he has done for us! It has been a real honor having him as our professor (aztec math and aztec dancing) and I have no words that can express my gratitude towards him. I will be sure to tell my family about the Nepohualtzintzin and all the knowledge it has brought me.

I am also so thankful for our writing professor Shelva! She has taught me so much about writing and creativity. I will defiantly be using the essay she helped us with as a reference later in life when I go to apply to the nursing program!

Genna and Gina have been beyond amazing. I just want to recognize all the hard work and dedication they have put into making our blogging and this whole program fun by taking pictures and such!

Hearing Gayle Ann Kelley speak again about her journey through life especially throughout the movie: Spirit Game- Pride of a Nation was memorizing. She is such a beautiful, strong, dedicated woman. It was a real honor to hear her speak again and to get to know more about her life struggles. I am so thankful she was able to come back! I will take the knowledge and inspiration she has shared with us back to my family and community at home! We need more people in the world like Gayle. She really is a one of a kind person and deeply appreciate her dedicating some of our time to come talk to us not once, but twice!

Overall, this program has been amazing! I will take all that I have learned her back to my community and family, sharing every little detail about the family I have had the privilege of being a part of! I’ll miss everyone so much! Don’t forget about me!




Day 12!- Sylena


I slept peacefully this morning knowing there were no indigenous games this morning. I felt well rested, refreshed after a well needed sleep in. The class with Katherine Watkins was inspiring and mindful. I felt like my brain was full by the end of the class. I enjoyed listening to everyone speak their minds about what they thought about the songs we were listening to. Hearing these songs made me feel meditated and reflective. The well spoken words of all the musicians spun through my head as my pen hit the paper. Writing like I never have before, I felt more descriptive and like I became one with the pen. My thoughts poured out of my mind and sole onto the paper. I felt relieved and relaxed about my writing. I have never done an descriptive writing exercise like this and all I can say is how much more heart-felt my writing was. How easy the words came from my mind and were flowing on my paper like water down a river. This made me think more about my words and how to elaborate on a single moment in time. I deeply appreciate how far Katherine has come to share her knowledge with us. I really enjoyed this class and felt energized the entire time.


Day 11!- Sylena



The human body… Ahh! I absolutely loved the Gross Anatomy Lab at Western University. We got to look at cadavers and examined literally what is on the inside of us! This was my first time seeing a preserved dead body and in what most people would consider a weird way, I found it fascinating! This is something I have always wanted to do and that I am above and beyond passionate about. Holding that human heart and lungs in my hands was such a powerful and inspiring moment for me. At first I was a bit hesitant by the smell but, after the instructor reassured us that it was the chemical preservatives and not death, I felt relief! I can not express how grateful I am for this experience and how it has made me inspired to continue on in the direction of the medical field to educate people to take care of their bodies. We got to witness a body full of cancer and what it does to the body both internally and externally. The only thing I was a little let down about is that we did not get to do the cutting haha. I have always took a keen interest in the human body and to be able to literally hold a real human organs in my own hand is an amazing experience! Most people do not get to do that and I am so grateful the program incorporated this into the program. If I could, I would become a surgeon but that is way too much schooling for me. I am particularly interested in the heart because I just learnt about it a couple of months ago in my Biology 12 class! I felt a connection to this chapter and learning about the blood flow through the heart along with the anatomy of the heart. To conclude, this day was one of the best days at the program for me so far and I only wish that we had more time to learn about other body elements such as the brain!



Day 10: Change- Sylena

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This quote, stated by Gandhi, is one of my favorite, most powerful quotes. This program has inspired me to do just that. I hope to become more culturally involved with my Nation in the future and one day, possibly move back to work for the Nation. I am excited to tell all my peers about this program and all that it has taught me about myself and who I am. From this program, I will take in the wise words of all the elders and people I have met. I have grown so much as a person and feel like I am ready for the next chapter of my life. Public speaking was a real challenge for me at the beginning of this program and now, I am able to speak in front of everyone without feeling embarrassed or anxious! I do not dread group talks anymore and voicing my opinion. From this program, I will take how we treat our elders and the respect that is required towards them. Like I said before, serving the elders first at Wishtoyo taught me a lot about respect and made me want to this sort of action more often. Whether it be in my community, or a random act of kindness towards the elderly, I will be sure to show more kindness and respect! The elders have really inspired me to continue the way that I am going. To pursue post-secondary and achieve my dreams and goals. I hope to leave inspiration for the future generations and persistence. I hope to inspire them to never give up and to shoot for the stars. To stay focused even though things might be hard at times. Everyone deals with their own personal stuff in different ways and you are never alone. Take that chance. Be that person that stands out. Go for it! What is the worst that can happen? You fail? Get up and try again for failure is a part of life and personal growth.

Day 9!- Sylena


To start off our morning, yet again, we had another class of Indigenous Games with Hector and John! I will admit that I did not want to get up this morning but, today we did something different. Today we played a game similar the capture the flag and I really enjoyed it! It was a great way to start off the day and wake up. I can honestly say that by the end of the session, I was fully energized and ready for the rest of the day.

We had lots of free time today which I really needed to catch up on laundry and get organized. The activity that stood out the most for me today was the talking/drumming/singing circle with Josie Montes. I have never experienced something quite like this before so it was so touching to be apart of! My favorite song that we learnt was the humming bird song which made me feel so alive and dive deeper into my spirit. I could feel the power in all the women around me and knew that we were, yet again bonding! This was such an inspiring experience and I am so thankful Aunt Josie was there to share her wisdom and stories with us! She taught us so much within a short period of time and made the time pass like it was nothing. This is something I feel like I would like to experience again and learnt more about!


Day 6/7/8!- Sylena


Wishtoyo! Today we started our 3 day journey at Wishtoyo in Malibu. It was a quick 2 hour drive and we were there! Seeing the blue, crystal clear water on the way there made me feel grateful to be in such a beautiful place and here at this program. I am so excited for the next chapter of this trip.

I felt honoured to be welcomed by all the elders, especially MATI WAIYA and LUHUI ISHA, as we pulled up to the village. Their singing was beautiful and I am happy to be here! The orientation was so inspiring. I loved listening to the stories that the elders told and felt like I have learned lots from them already! I feel so accepted by all the people here and feel like we are one big family! The beach here is amazing! The water is so shimmery and beautiful. I enjoyed swimming in the water (even though I was fully clothed). I felt so free. It really cleaned my sole and spirit. I felt like I could swim in the ocean all day!

At dinner ad lunch, we served the elders first. I felt this shows how much we respect ad love we have for them. This selfless act of putting the elders first made me feel humble inside. I think this is one of events that stuck out most throughout my day because I got to look all the elders in the eye and see how much joy was brought to their faces by act of kindness. I have not seen this before due to not being involved with my Nation yet but, I can already tell I will be doing this sort of thing more often; putting the elders first.

During this trip, we also learned about climate change and how erosion and rising temperatures are changing our world. This really opened my eyes to this issue. Knowing that it will happen either way makes me very upset but, also knowing that we can slow it down by doing simple daily tasks is a relief. It scares me that my people from my Nation may not have some of their land in the next 50 years because of this issue.

The food throughout the whole trip was amazing. Nana and Sergio provided delicious food three times a day every day which I was so grateful for. The hard work, dedication and love they put into the food did not go unnoticed!

On the last day, we went surfing at Zuma beach and it was amazing! Surfing is defiantly something I want to continue with and I am so thankful I was able to experience it here in Malibu!

In conclusion, Wishtoyo was an unforgettable experience that I will look back on for the rest of my life. During this trip, I have made so many friends that I am I will keep in touch with and Wishtoyo really helped to solidify the bonds of these friendships!



Day 5!- Sylena


Opening my eyes this morning, I felt exhausted. It has been quite a busy program so far and I am enjoying it more and more each day. We started off our morning yet again with Hector and John practicing martial arts.

The sun was hanging high in the sky at 7:00am burning my eyes as I gazed up to admire it, thankful for another day here in California. The smell of the sage filled my lungs as we passed around the shell it was burning in. Throughout this session today, I felt peaceful and by the end of it, began to feel more energized.

Later in the day, after aztec math and dinner, we learnt how to basket weave with Lori Sisquoc. I am so grateful that she was there to show us the ropes about basket weaving. I found this activity very enjoyable and going forward, would like to continue it in my own Nation. I have always wondered about basket weaving and I am glad and thankful that I had the chance to experience it, especially with these amazing people and elders.

So far, this program has made me more curious about my own community and has really made me want to become more involved with them; learning more about my family and “teachings” from elders. In the near future, I look forward to becoming closer with my Nation. I am excited to tell the native youth from my community about this program and how it has helped me to grow as a person.


Day 3/4!- Sylena

Day 3


On day three, we all had the amazing opportunity to experience “The Blanket Game” lead by the elders from VIU (Vancouver Island University) located in Nanaimo. This game was about the Indigenous people from Canada, their land and how it was taken from them by the government. For me, this was very emotional and I could tell all the people around me were experiencing a variety of emotions from anger to pure sadness. Being a part of Tla’amin Nation and doing this exercise hit me hard. Hearing all the horrible abuse and discrimination that happened in my home, my community was life-changing. Not knowing about my ancestry until later in my life has lead my lack of knowledge about what happened to the indigenous people of my Nation. I have heard bits and pieces of peoples stories about residential schools, but I have never experienced feeling the emotions firsthand what this must have been like for my people.

After the exercise, we gathered in a circle and talked not only about the exercise, but also about past experiences of things such as abuse and discrimination. This hit me hard. I was overwhelmed by the emotions that I felt during this sharing activity. Ranging from anxiety and sorrow, to anger and bitterness. I felt guilty for not knowing about how my people were treated sooner and about how other people still face similar issues to this day. Although residential schools are no longer a “thing”, there are still many of the values that residential school held in this school system today. Bullying and discrimination based on ethnic background and skin color is still present along with other types of racism. I am shocked that the whole group was so open with their past and trusting. It just proves that everyone has a past that you do not know about. I felt that the exercise helped us grow closer as a group by trusting each other.

Day 4


Today, my roommate (and friend) Violet and I started off our day by going for a run at 6:00am. We ran a mile around the track feeling out of breath yet rejuvenated. It got our day off to a fresh, new start and woke us up.

One event that stuck out for me today was Aztec dancing. I enjoyed every moment of this activity and would love to learn some of my own Nations cultural dances. Coyo took the time to put on his traditional regalia and help show us how to dance. These cultural dances made me appreciate all of us together. Although we are all from different cultural backgrounds (and for me continents), the unity that we formed was amazing. Dancing in a circle with everyone and hearing the beat of the drums through my own ears rather than through a computer screen made me appreciate being able to take part in this program; meeting new people.


Day 2!- Sylena


Today we had the honor of seeing the documentary: Spirit Game- Pride of a Nation. This documentary really moved me. I felt very strongly about this film and I am grateful Gayle Ann Kelley was able to be there with us and answer question at the end of the film. This film was about how the Iroquios National Lacrosse Team went through their journey of competing in the 2015 Box Lacrosse Championships and all the hardships they went through to compete. I was very shocked about all the discrimination these Indigenous people went through but also felt proud that they kept their heads up and did not sink down to the levels of the people that put them down. Many parts of the cinema stuck out to me, but one part in particular was when all the other national lacrosse teams got their passports signed with the Iroquois Confederacy stamp but, Canada out of  all nations refused to do this. I was disappointed and felt quite embarrassed that first of all, I did not know about this. And secondly, that Canada puts themselves out to be so open and accepting no matter what race, nationality or gender someone is, yet they denied this simple gesture to the Iroquois people. I have never not been proud to be a Canadian Citizen, but after seeing this film, it made me feel ashamed of my nationality.


Day 1! – Sylena


Day 1 at the Native Youth 2 College Program went great! We started off with an orientation and I really enjoyed learning to dance to the cultural music. Seeing only a small portion of what is to come makes me feel grateful I have been given the opportunity to participate in such a culturally rounded program. Even though I do not know much about my own Indigenous heritage and ancestry, I look forward to becoming more culturally aware of the people around me and taking a step out of my comfort zone. I only wish I knew more about my own culture (“teachings”) and ways of the nation I belong to (Tla’amin Nation- Powell River, British Columbia). Going forward, I hope to become more engaged in my culture and get to know the small Indigenous community to which I belong! I did not know I was of Indigenous decent until recently, therefore I have not grown up with the different cultural aspects of life like my ancestors have. I am proud to say that I am the first person from my nation to participate in this program and will be sure to share this amazing opportunity with the youth of Tla’amin Nation. I want to challenge them to step out of their comfort zone just as I have.

After lunch, we went to the theater for for about an hour and (for me at least) stepped out of our comfort zone a lot. The instructor, Joyce Lu, helped us to trust each other and really get to know one another. For me, this helped build my confidence and got me to push that much further out of my comfort zone. I was impressed with how fun this experience turned out to be and how accepting, open, and trusting the whole group was. At first I was a bit skeptical of the theater and talking in front of everyone, but it really helped me be comfortable and just be me! Pushing myself out of my comfort zone has always been one of my main struggles and taking this opportunity to grow and meet new people at this program has already started to help me grow as a person .

Later in the day, we shared with the group who our rock was and for me, that is my sister. She has always been there for me and has helped build my confidence. She gives me brutally honest advice when no one else will and is not afraid to speak her mind. She has been an amazing role model throughout my life and I know she will always be there for me no matter what.

I also enjoyed learning a cultural song called “The Whale Song”. It made me think of what kinds of songs my Nation back home sings and what they mean. In the future, I look forward to making myself more knowledgable about the singing and dancing aspect of my culture and really reflecting of what “knowing my roots” means to me.