Ótáp ímisskaan: The Indigenous Youth Leadership Program
Ótáp ímisskaan (pronounced Óo-tdúp-ím-ss-gkhan) is an engaging community-based Indigenous youth outreach program designed to motivate and empower Indigenous youth to nourish the leader within and foster skills to become future leaders in their personal and communal lives.
What is Ótáp ímisskaan?
Ótáp ímisskaan (formerly the Native Ambassador Post-secondary Initiative/NAPI) is designed for Indigenous youth aged 13-24 and consists of two main streams: Educational Outreach and Youth Leadership Training. Both avenues provide educational information, motivation and inspiration that will engage youth to make informed decisions, develop a vision for their future, and contribute positively to their community.
Through outreach events and leadership training, we help Indigenous youth develop leadership skills, build self-awareness, offer knowledge, and also encourage them to pursue post-secondary education. We aim to ultimately empower and inspire Indigenous youth to realize their own potential in order to become emerging leaders of today and tomorrow.
In 2002 the program was initiated by the Native Centre as the Native Ambassador Post-Secondary Initiative (N.A.P.I) as an educational outreach program to support and inspire Indigenous youth in and around The City of Calgary. In 2006 the program partnered with the University of Calgary's Student Leadership Program to develop three levels of training where each level contains a series of Indigenous knowledge based interactive leadership modules.
During the summer of 2019, the N.A.P.I Program was gifted the Blackfoot name; Ótáp ímisskaan through ceremony by Blackfoot elder Duane Mistaken Chief from the Kainai (Blood Tribe) First Nation. Ótáp ímisskaan means to bring rations back home for sustenance after a ceremonial feast or gathering. It is our intention as a program to nourish the youth with leadership knowledge and skills they can apply anywhere, including back home in their communities.
Today, our program is a living entity that shapeshifts through the narratives of our Wayfinders and undergoes renewal processes that reflect youth and Indigenous voices of our current communities.
Our goal is to provide culturally-based leadership training and community outreach opportunities to youth of all ages and backgrounds. We aim to nourish the future generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders and foster community vibrance and healing.
Using a hands-on, arts-based approach, we provide engaging leadership training aimed to develop leadership skills, build self-awareness, offer knowledge, and encourage Indigenous youth to pursue their passions and interests.
Sierra Koochicum is Cree and Blackfoot from Peepeekisis First Nation and Siksika First Nation. She is currently the Ótáp ímisskaan Indigenous Youth Leadership Program Team Lead and she is in her fifth year of studies at the University of Calgary, pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in International Indigenous Studies. Sierra is passionate about providing youth with self-care tools that will allow them to pursue their goals, and to foster a safe and nurturing community for growth and healing.
Lucas Hale is Lenape from the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown. He is in his 4th year of studies at the University of Calgary, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Indigenous Studies, with a minor in Visual Studies & Art History. He is passionate about these disciplines and hopes to find a career path combining the two. Lucas joined the Ótáp ímisskaan team in 2019 and hopes to encourage and support youth in following their passions.
Damase Anderson-Camacho is Métis and Colombian, belonging to the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3. She is in her 2nd year of studies at the University of Calgary, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Art History. She is passionate about art in all forms and exploring the power it possesses as a tool for community healing. As part of the Ótáp ímisskaan team, Damase hopes to create an encouraging and open environment in which youth can thrive.
Thomas Komarniski is Saulteaux and Métis. Growing up urban they are from Winnipeg, Manitoba and moved to Alberta at age 5. They are in their third year of studies at the University of Calgary pursuing a double bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Indigenous Studies. They are passionate about Indigenous Ways of Knowing and hope to foster a way forward for those who are struggling to find their place.
Onyx Shelton is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is currently in his second year of studies at the University of Calgary pursuing degrees in International Indigenous Studies and English. His passion in life is storytelling and his goals are based on empowering and sharing his, and others' stories. During his journey, he has received a lot of support and wants to give back by engaging and supporting communities in ways that he can help.
The Ótáp ímisskaan program helped me find a sense of self, family and community within an institutional setting that at first made me feel intimidated. Being an Indigenous post-secondary student can come with many challenges daily, but being a part of the Ótáp ímisskaan family made me feel supported, heard, and purposeful during my studies. I can honestly say Ótáp ímisskaan nourished me to find my voice, learn how to speak to younger generations to inspire positive change in our communities. The program gave me a sense of accountability to my team members, youth and myself to grow and learn into the leader I am today, and I’m forever grateful for this experience.
Partners and Sponsors
Ótáp ímisskaan is funded through the generous support of our sponsors: