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Cree entrepreneur striving to better people's lives, help youth

'I’m a very empathetic person and I always want the best for everyone,' says Stephane Friday
2021-8-23 Stephane Friday
Stephane Friday is the co-founder of the non-profit Hockey Indigenous.

Stephane Friday’s mindset has always been about helping youth and people in his community of Kashechewan First Nation.

Friday, 27, is the co-founder of Hockey Indigenous, a non-profit organization aiming to empower and promote Indigenous youth across Canada. He also works as a research assistant at the Omushkegowuk Nation Rebuilding Initiative department.

Growing up, Friday always played street hockey. He remembers watching a game on TV with his grandfather and brother, and it got him “hooked.”

Hockey is a big sport in Indigenous communities, including Kashechewan, he says.

“I’m a very analytic person in hockey. I know every inch of this sport,” he says.

Friday's interests and passions range from business, innovation, governance and youth to astrology, space and sports.

“I always want to strive to create a better system for our people,” he says. “It’s always a dream to help the people."

Friday has been actively involved in the community since his teenage years. He started as a youth president at the Timmins Native Friendship Centre as a teenager.

He volunteered as a youth deputy chief for Kashechewan First Nation Youth Council, hosting various programs, gatherings and activities for youth. The council, comprised of seven members, started in July 2016, a month after Friday took part in the NAN Youth Delegation.

“I was very lucky to be part of it with my brother. We were both from Kashechewan,” Friday says recalling meeting the prime minister, former Senator Murray Sinclair and many MPs. “That’s how it sparked our potential in starting the Youth Council.”

Friday was also a general manager of Kashechewan Minor Hockey and Kashechewan high school boys’ and girls’ teams.

One of his memorable moments managing the basketball program involves attending a tournament in Chisasibi, Que. The Kashechewan high school boys’ and girls’, men’s and women’s teams attended their first tournament together where they won all championships.

“It made me feel amazing and happy for the basketball teams and the families because it took a lot of hard work to do that,” Friday says. “When you envision something and bring it to reality, and seeing it all happen, it was a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”

Being a band councillor is a whole other level with a lot of behind-the-scenes work that people don’t understand, Friday says, and it involves a lot of work and pressure.

“You have to be really strong to be there,” he says. “Because you’re looking out to the community. And there are always people asking about what's going on."

Friday also worked as a comprehensive community planning co-ordinator. Reflecting on his time on council, he says he didn’t realize how busy he was at the time.

“I never took the time to acknowledge myself for the stuff I do,” he says. “What just keeps me going is helping, and helping, and helping.”

From his volunteer and work experience, self-care is crucial. To prevent burning out at work, Friday makes sure he takes the time to do nothing, meditate or watch a movie.

“And you need to have time for yourself on a monthly basis, at least one or two days of doing nothing. Whatever keeps you occupied, whether that’s reading a book, playing video games or beading,” he says. “You can’t always be pressured to do something … In order to be strong, you have to take care of yourself too.”

Friday also helped start the Choose Life program in Kashechewan. It’s a Nishnawbe Aski Nation initiative providing immediate funding relief for youth at risk of suicide by fast-tracking proposals for various child and youth mental health programs.

Friday was involved with the program for three years, providing input and direction regarding what programming would be needed in Kashechewan.

“I’m a very empathetic person and I always want the best for everyone,” he says. “I always strive to help give a better direction for my people, my community. And I do really like to work with the youth and the kids … Just give them a good motivation that boosts their self-esteem.”

In 2020, Friday incorporated Hockey Indigenous as a non-profit organization. Before that, he ran it as a social media blog. Seeing how much it’s grown and helped promote youth has been amazing, he says.

“Doing it as a blog for five years is a lot of work. It took up a lot of my personal time, especially the past couple of years with all the council stuff,” Friday says. “Once you start something, you’re going to go from there and all the ideas are going to come out. And that’s where the passion in your heart becomes stronger and that’s when you want to strive to be better.”

Friday and his partner, who live in Timmins, are soon-to-be parents. Out of everything that he’s done and accomplished, Friday, who also has a seven-year-old stepson, says he’s most proud of being a father.

“It gives me a sense of life. It gives me a whole other level of feelings that I can’t comprehend because it’s that good,” he says.

To his children, Friday wants to pass down the Seven Grandfather Teachings, which helped him in his life as well as the traditional culture, the Cree language, and the inherent treaty laws.

“The Seven Grandfathers Teachings give you a positive motive in life. It gives you a clear mind on what you really set for life. A huge part of that is manifestation. In other words, praying,” he says.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

About the Author: Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering diversity issues for TimminsToday. The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada
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