First Nations TikTok users hope to inspire youth to learn more about their cultures

By | April 13, 2020

First Nations TikTok users are using the app to share their cultures and hopefully inspire the younger audience to want to learn more about them. 

Sherry McKay, who is from Sagkeeng First Nation and lives in Winnipeg, has been on TikTok since last September and has amassed over 150,000 followers. She said her following is likely because she is adding “Indigenous sounds” to the app.

“I purposely started making my own sounds with regular trends and putting in certain things that Indigenous people find relatable in terms of comedy,” said McKay.

The sound clips that she uploads are of things like Ernest Monias’ song If I wanted you girl

Sherry McKay adds to the mix of TikTok by adding Indigenous audio clips. (Submitted by Sherry McKay)

Her favourite thing on TikTok at the moment is the Indigenous take on the “glow up” trend, where people start the video in their street clothes, bring a brush toward the camera and then appear in their traditional regalia.

“When youth see a representation of themselves on an app like TikTok, it gives them confidence and I think it’s extremely important,” said McKay.

Larissa Munch, 17, said she knows Indigenous youth are seeing her TikTok videos and “I just want to inspire them.”

Munch is Carrier and Nehiyaw, from Nazko First Nation in B.C. She started dancing powwow at an early age and is a jingle dress dancer.

Her most popular video has over 450,000 likes and its caption is “how I get ready for powwow.” The video shows her putting her regalia on and it’s the kind of content that she likes to upload to the app.

“Indigenous youth use TikTok a lot; I know a lot of my cousins do,” said Munch.

“People have been contacting me and they will ask me about their culture because they were never taught it, so I’ve been trying to help them.” 

She will be graduating high school this year and plans to attend the University of British Columbia and pursue Indigenous studies.

Putting ‘an Indigenous twist’ on trends

Theland Kicksnoway also uses the app to connect with other Indigenous youth. Kicksnoway is 16 and from Walpole Island First Nation in southwestern Ontario. 

He has over 27,000 followers on the app and said his main goal is to put a smile on people’s faces. He often collaborates with other users and said he enjoys sharing ideas with people.

Theland Kicksnoway is hoping apps like TikTok help people share their Indigenous culture with the world. (Elaine Kicksnoway)

“I do mostly comedy stuff and some dancing videos,” he said.

“When there are different trends or challenges that are going around, I will put an Indigenous twist on them.”

Many of his followers are from outside Canada and he said he likes to use his platform to educate non-Indigenous people.

“TikTok is a great way to share our culture to the mainstream,” said Kicksnoway.

His said his message for young Indigenous people on TikTok is “Know that you are here for a reason, know that everything that you make is amazing.”

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