RSIC education column: An important message to our Indian youth |

RSIC education column: An important message to our Indian youth

Justin Zuniga
Special to First Nation’s Focus
Justin Zuniga

If you are our Indian youth, this article is meant for you.

To the rest of our community — our aunties and uncles, our grannies and grandpas, feel free to check out any of the other high-quality articles in this month’s publication.

I’ll wait until all adults have flipped past this piece…

OK, to the Indian youth, I want to talk to you about the importance of understanding how others see you. Specifically, you have to know how adults perceive you. How many times in your life have you heard an adult, perhaps someone you love, say, “you won’t understand because you are just a kid,” or, “you’ll understand when you’re older.”

Do you remember how it made you feel?

I understand it may be difficult to describe how you feel, when you have been silenced.

Everyone has endured this transgression, and nobody deserves to be demeaned in this way. This is a common attack on kids because it is a lazy auto-response. The adult who responds in such a way is either: 1. Unable to give an actual informed response, or 2. They believe this child is not mature enough to comprehend the matter.

So, the next time this happens to you — and unfortunately it most likely will happen again before you reach adulthood — you should retort, “excuse me,” and in the most respectful tone you could muster, apply pressure by saying, “I’m not that young. I’m sure I will understand if you could put it in terms that make sense to me.”

This is key, because you are demanding respect, but you being respectful about it.

Actually, as a universal truth for kids, you should conduct yourself in a respectful manner AT ALL TIMES when dealing with adults, because you do not want to give them anything credible to hold against you to discredit your voice. That will be the first card they use against you — they will make you be accountable for your actions. Hence, if you are acting like a mindless child, then be prepared for adults to treat you as such.

Furthermore, whenever an adult silences you like this, the transgression is compounded further because you’re Native.

“You won’t understand, because you’re just an Indian kid,” is what they saying at a deeper level. As a Native individual, you are already coming from a marginalized position, and this exchange is not increasing your sensibilities of self-worth.

As our Indian youth, you have the right to empower yourself. That’s just it — we can treat everyone this way because all people have the right to empower themselves. Everyone, adults and kids alike, should empower all others in how we interact and dialogue together.

In conclusion, hopefully you find this helpful tip for the next time an adult comes at you with that noise and tries to silence your voice. Challenge them, prove to them your self-worth, as long as you remain respectful.

*If you are the rogue adult and you got to the end of this article, please never utter, “You’ll understand when you’re older” ever again. It’s just not a constructive comment at very teachable moment.

Justin Zuniga works as an RSIC Education Advisor at the Hungry Valley Center in Sparks. Email him at with questions.