Kyle Young Pine wasn't proud to be Indigenous growing up.
Attending school in Okotoks in the 90s and early 2000s, he said he and his brother were the only non-white students.
"It was just the visible Indigeneity in my brother and I — and we were the only two Native kids in Good Shepard School, Holy Trinity Academy," he recalled. "And as a kid at that age growing up in school, you kind of just want to fit in, right? And what was the easiest way to cancel us out? Skin colour."
Young Pine, whose Blackfoot name is Piita Aapasskaan (Eagle Fancy Dancer) is from the Kainai First Nations Blood Tribe. Apart from running a plumbing and gas fitting business, the HTA grad works with Recovery Coaches Alberta, meeting people where they're at to support them in battling addiction, something he knows all too well.
He became addicted to oxycodone in Grade 9 and suffered from addiction for many years. Next month, he'll be nine years sober.
A father to seven-year-old Phoenix, Young Pine credits skateboarding and fancy dancing for his recovery, something he now shares with youth.
A documentary chronicling his journey to sobriety, finding place in his culture and moving forward, titled Piita Aapasskaan, premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival this week.
Students at St. Francis of Assisi Academy were given the chance to learn from Young Pine and his son ahead of the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.
The day was filled with workshops across all grade levels where students covered topics related to truth and reconciliation guided by Young Pine and Phoenix, before they were enthralled with a fancy dance performance. Junior high students were shown the documentary which guided discussion and questions.
He told the students the pain and trauma suffered by his father who was a residential school survivor. Though the stories can be hard to hear, he said its important education be rooted in truth.
Having lacked pride as a boy and teen, Young Pine said he works to instil cultural practices and values into his son's life, including ceremony, refraining from cutting his hair and of course, skateboarding.
Being presented with the opportunity to address youth ahead of Sept. 30 is a step toward increasing awareness and conversation around the atrocities of residential schools, inter-generational trauma and beyond, he said.