About Taking Action!

The Taking Action! Project: Art and Aboriginal Youth Leadership for HIV Prevention is a national project working with Aboriginal youth and communities across Canada. Led by Indigenous youth, we seek to understand HIV in relation to Indigenous communities and cultures and also to see if using art (Taking Action Part 1) and digital storytelling (Taking Action Part 2) is an effective tool for working with youth to talk about HIV/AIDS and mobilize action.

Why is this important?

There is so much in Indigenous history and teachings to support healthy sexuality and many different Indigenous traditions have always recognized the power behind the youth voice. Yet, there is a lack of culturally safe information about HIV and AIDS , which is a concern because HIV affects Indigenous youth and communities at higher rates across Canada.

It is time for Aboriginal youth to get involved in creating culturally safe information that educates to prevent HIV. Unleashing the creative power of youth as health promotion activists is a successful approach, used both in Canada and around the world.

With this in mind, our team has created the Taking Action! Project. It aims to involve Indigenous youth as HIV prevention leaders, using both traditional art forms and new media approaches. Indigenous youth, with the support of artists and community partners, will address the higher HIV infection rates among members of their communities by developing and showcasing their own creative art-based and digital media responses.

Taking Action! Part 1 Workshops and Art Work

Taking Action! workshops are organized by local youth coordinators with the support of local elders and other community members as well as the Taking Action! project team.

The goal of these workshops is to provide youth with a chance to develop projects that unpack the links between structural inequalities, individual HIV risk, and Indigenous culture(s).

This means creating artwork about stuff like:

  • Colonization, racism, assimilation, isolation, and residential school system legacies
  • Healthy sexuality and HIV/AIDS
  • Indigenous cultural knowledge and traditions

During these workshops, youth learn about HIV by working in small groups with trained artists on projects like music, video, photography, hip hop, and other art forms, discussing their artwork with the other participants in the project, and, on the last day of the workshop, presenting their artwork to their community.

We have held Taking Action! workshops with the urban Aboriginal community in Toronto, Ontario (October 2008), Kettle and Stony Point First Nation & Aamjiwnaang First Nation in southwestern Ontario (February 2009), Kahnawake First Nation just outside of Montreal, Quebec (May 2009), Nak’azdli First Nation in northwestern British Columbia (October 2009), Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (May 2010), and Puvirnituq in Nunavik (October 2010). In each of these communities, our local youth coordinators did an amazing job planning a weekend workshop with the youth in their community, and worked with us over the course of 3 years for various community launches and interviews.

Taking Action! Part 2 Digital Stories and Continuing Youth Leadership

In continuing what we learned from Indigenous youth and communities in Taking Action 1, our Youth Coordinators and National Youth Advisory helped us to shape Taking Action 2 to sustain this important work. Taking Action 2 is about building Indigenous youth leadership capacity, and to date we have 17 amazing Indigenous youth leaders from across Canada who are working with us for the next 3 years. To date, they have created digital stories and short movies, which they are launching in their own communities and coming together to support one another in Indigenous youth leadership in the HIV/AIDS movement.