You Are Enough: The Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council Mental Health Summit is Supporting First Nations Youth in a Traditional Way

The Student Mental Health Summit instills traditional ways of knowing from Elders while reducing the stigma of mental health.

By ATB Financial 20 March 2024 5 min read

Sometimes it’s the little moments that can lead to the greatest impact. It can be a word of encouragement, a teaching from an Elder, learning to make a traditional food or simply glancing at a schoolmate’s T-shirt that reads “You Are Enough”. These moments can make someone’s day, and it could save a life.

The Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council Education Authority (KTCEA) acknowledges the power of these moments, and brings them to life at their annual KTCEA Mental Health Summit. 

KTCEA encompasses six schools located in North-Central Alberta within five Cree First Nations (Loon River First Nation, Lubicon Lake Band, Peerless Trout First Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation and Woodland Cree First Nation), and is deeply invested in the well-being of its youth. ATB is pleased to support the Student Mental Health Summit, with a $20,000 contribution. 

The KTCEA Mental Health Summit is unique because it addresses the needs of Indigenous youth in a culturally appropriate way, through a variety of activities and connections that help foster well-being, confidence and knowledge. The event encourages students to lead the movement of supporting each other and learning from community Elders and Knowledge Keepers. 

By providing holistic tools, skills and knowledge to youth to support their well-being on an ongoing basis, the youth are building resilience and learning how to support each other, while learning traditional Cree ways of knowing directly from Elders.

About the Summit, student Leonard Oar said, “It was great, the Elders taught me how to make bannock on a stick, and showed me where the best spots are to cook it properly.” He added that he found the Summit “Great, fun and awesome” as he learned traditional ways of knowing along with sage wisdom from Elders and speakers to instill confidence and understand the message that “You Are Enough”. 

The students learn how to ask for help and learn ways to support others who may come to them for assistance. Says Oar, “I learned that if you need help, you can get help, you just have to ask.” 

Another student, Lexis Savard, added that “Students should know they are not alone, that there are others out there who can help you with whatever you’re going through.”

Darrell Fors is a Knowledge Keeper, and he participated in the Summit and shared ways of knowing with the students. He says, “The Elders sat outside at the fire and talked a lot about distractions - we can get too distracted by our technology and scrolling on our phones. We emphasized the value of our time and how to focus on connecting with others to stay healthy, and know they are never alone.” 

The Elders also talked about the value of tradition and nutrition. Says Darrell, “We often say “you are what you eat”, and we believe that our traditional land-based foods become a part of us. We talked a lot about our history, Treaty 8, the benefits of living off the land and good foods to consider as we make choices to stay healthy.” 

For ATB, the belief is that the project will continue to have a significant and positive impact for Indigenous youth across Northern Alberta, helping to advance mental health and inclusive communities.


Exciting, Empowering and Educational 

Lindy Fors, Inclusive Education Manager at KTCEA, says that the Summit is important because it helps to enhance student mental health literacy to address issues such as complex grief and suicide. This is important because students are often each other’s counselors due to limited access to resources in the community.

She says, “Some of the largest reasons for establishing the Summit are to address issues related to colonization and oppression, as well as reinforcing the importance of reconciliation.”

She notes that “Young women face an alarming number of risks for violence, when you look at the statistics and commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in addition to a lack of economic opportunities. The Mental Health Summit is exciting, empowering and educational for everyone.”

At the Summit, community Elders and Knowledge Keepers promote Cree principles such as hard work, gratitude, laughter, love and respect, in addition to the themes of the KTCEA mission and vision of promoting pride in identity, history, language and ways of being. 

Says Lindy Fors, “We run an Elders in residence program through our Learning Services, and Elders are an essential part of every school’s programming, whether it is through consultation or land-based learning and traditional activities. We want to ensure traditional teachings are nurtured so that students have pride in who they are.”

The youth learn about the “Be There” Golden Rules created by, a Canadian charity that empowers young leaders to revolutionize mental health, and Elders helped translate the Be There Golden Rules into their traditional language.

KTCEA has also offered mentorship courses and the Be There Certificate through to students to help encourage mental health literacy. 

Says Quentin Sinclair, Director Community Impact, at ATB, “Advancing Mental Health is a key focus area at ATB. The work being done by the KTCEA and students is continuing to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness, by delivering programming in a unique and culturally relevant way.” 

In addition to the Mental Health Summit, each school’s Principal offers ongoing resources and programming for their students. Says Fors, “We collaborate with stakeholders in the communities such as KTC Health and Atikameg Health, and we have their team members in our schools to run workshops on everything from healthy relationships to vaping and bullying. inspired the Student Mental Health Summit, but each school’s Principal works hard to offer activities and workshops that meet the needs of their students.”

Adds Sinclair, “The Summit is just one area that helps to reduce the stigma of mental health, while also learning critical knowledge, practices and wisdom from local Elders. We can all appreciate that teachers have very full plates already, so for teachers and students to come together to create these opportunities is truly inspirational.” 

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