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'Our stories are important': Indigenous TikTok creators gather in Winnipeg

Manitoba is well-represented among a group of Indigenous social media creators chosen for a special training program meant to help them grow their online presence.

Six Manitobans are on the list of 40 chosen for this year's TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators, presented by the National Screen Institute.

Each year, a cohort of Canadian TikTokers are chosen to learn more about how to create engaging content and promote themselves on the popular video app.

“Creators who are up and coming on the platform, who are trying to learn more about how to create content, how to storytell, and how to better use the app and create meaningful brand awareness for themselves,” said Kairyn Potts, one of six "Visionary Voices" chosen by TikTok to mentor the new creators.

The program is led by returning program advisor Sherry Mckay, an Ojibway Anishinaabe creator from Treaty 1 Territory, as well as program co-managers Sarah Simpson-Yellowquill, a filmmaker from Long Plain First Nation on Treaty 1 Territory and Erica Wilson, a Saulteaux artist/community connector from Treaty 1 Territory. The program also includes workshops, guest speakers, and online courses.

Potts says Indigenous people have been gravely underrepresented in all forms of media, particularly social media. But that is beginning to change.

“There has been such growth on the app for Native TikTok,” he said. “And I've seen firsthand - because I'm a creator on the app - just how amazing some of the opportunities that come onto the plates of people who put themselves out there and share their stories and are creating art and who aren't scared to be themselves.”

Potts said it wasn’t easy growing his presence online, “I ran into a lot of racism. And I ran into particularly a lot of ignorance surrounding my identity as a Two Spirit person, and also as a queer person.”

Potts says the internet is generally not a safe space for Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ people, as online anonymity allows for the expression of racist and homophobic statements with little consequence.

“But opportunities like this and programs like this, with TikTok and the National Screen Institute, are great ways to make sure that there are more people that look and identify the way that I do," Potts said. "We're on the app and hopefully make it a safer space.”

Potts feels like he's a part of a new generation of Indigenous creators who are gaining worldwide audiences.

"There's this wave of young people that are hungry to tell their stories and to create meaningful content and who aren't scared to take up those spaces," he said.

And to anyone who may be afraid to express who they really are online, Potts has simple advice.

"Feel the fear and do it anyway," he said. "Because Indigenous people, we have a lot of intergenerational trauma, but also we have such intergenerational strength.

"We have always been at the forefront of technology and technological advances, and this is no different. Our stories are important. We're beautiful and we deserve to be here." Top Stories

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