Our featured Canadian influencer this month is Shayla Stonechild, whose October pick in VITA is a proud Indigenous brand! Read all about Shayla below, and watch for more fabulous influencer insights in the coming months! —Vita Daily
Hi Shayla! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
Tansi, my name is Shayla Stonechild and I am a Nehiyaw Iskwew (Plains Cree Woman) from Muscowpetung First Nations, Treaty 4 Territory. However, I currently reside on the unceded Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Watuuth people, also known as “Vancouver,” B,.C. I am currently hosting Season 3 of APTN’s Red Earth Uncovered; I have the chance to explore Indigenous legends/oral traditions and see how they influenced our history and present day. I am a yoga instructor at Vancouver’s newest boutique studio called CMMN GRND that is creating an all-inclusive environment, regardless of age, gender, body type. I am also the founder of the online platform the Matriarch Movement, which focuses on amplifying Indigenous women’s voices and how they reclaim their power while providing wellness workshops focused on meditation, movement (yoga) and medicine (reclaiming an Indigenous worldview).
How do you use your platform to impact those who follow you?
I always think of the intention + impact behind everything I do and why. Is it just for myself or is it amplifying and supporting my community—specifically the Indigenous community. When I speak, I speak not only for myself but for the generation that was here before me, the generation that is here now and the generation that has yet to come. Before I do any speaking engagement or workshop I ask to be a vessel for Creator (Divine, Source, God, whatever word you use to describe it) and my platform can be a vessel for that. It’s not just my platform. I use my social media stories to engage my followers, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, on topics that are usually spiritually bypassed or culturally appropriative. For example, we have had discussions around the use of sage and traditional medicines within the wellness community, capitalizing off of Turquoise jewelry and the use of the word “tribe” in the mainstream, etc.
How do you remain a voice for and active within your Indigenous community?
Before I do any speaking engagement or workshop, I smudge and ask to be a vessel for Creator and that whatever needs to come through at that time, I will be a vessel for that—and voice it in a good way. People ask me how I know all this stuff, and I can’t take credit. I offer tobacco and ask for guidance and clarity from my ancestors. I have visions that come to me within my dreams. All these practices are not new; they have been around for centuries. So I am reclaiming Indigenous values and knowledge that is already within my bloodline, so I already inherently know it. I stay connected through social media, communication and my “Reclaim Your Power” online workshop with the Native Women’s Wellness centre of Toronto. However, prior to COVID it was through ceremony, sweats, Pow-wows, workshops, rallies and protests. Also, in ndn country everyone is pretty much your cousin, so you’re always connected, ha ha!
Tell us about the Matriarch Movement, which you run.
The Matriarch Movement is an online platform dedicated to honouring our spirit and our sisters through sharing our stories, as well as practising meditation + movement (yoga) + medicine (reclaiming an Indigenous worldview). Moving in solidarity with each other across Turtle Island and bringing awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis that is currently happening in Canada and the United States. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic (MMIWG2S) is an issue currently affecting Indigenous people in Canada and the United States, including the First Nations, Inuit, Metis, and Native American communities. It is a Canadian National Crisis and a Canadian genocide. However, I am not a statistic, we are not a statistic, we are the Matriarch Movement. We need to shift the state of always labelling Indigenous women as in a state of vulnerability, survival or lack, when we are actually still here, and thriving.
What is your advice for those of us who are not part of the local Indigenous community, but wish to gain more knowledge/understanding and be allies?
There are tonnes of resources through books and online. To start: 21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act by Bob Joseph; Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad (great book to get to know the languaging around anti-racism work. There are also journal prompts to uncover your own bias); and the Decolonization is for Everyone Ted Talk by my friend Nikki Sanchez. Also, take part in the rallies and protests happening within your city. I know in Vancouver there is always a march for MMIWG2S on February 14th. Another way to be an ally is by making relations toward Indigenous people. Follow them on social media, shout out their work, buy their art, share their work, hire us. We are so much more than just a land acknowledgement.
Reconciliation is a word that gets a lot of press. What does it mean to you, and what do you think Canadians can do to advance it/get involved in the movement?
For me, I think reconciliation has a lot to do with the work of non-Indigenous people. Indigenous people don’t really have anything to reconcile; we have always been here. We are doing the work. We have been for a while. So my invitation would be, where can you start to reconcile? What are the biases you may have toward Indigenous people? What did you learn about us in school, if anything? What about now? Who taught you this belief? Be open to changing your perceptions, be open to changing your beliefs, be open to discovering new places to get your sources from, be open to an invitation of doing the work in unlearning. I think we all have to come to this work with an open mind and heart. Knowing that forgiveness is also how we can release and move forward.
What’s your personal style/beauty mantra?
I honestly, I like all a lot of men’s clothing. I like a darker, grungier, vibe. However, I also love doing an all-white look because I have a darker skin tone. I love brim hats, turquoise jewelry, and gold. If I can dress up neutrals with jewelry, I am in. Also, Dr. Martens have been my latest investment.
Follow Shayla online and on Instagram. Also, follow the Matriarch Movement on Instagram. Photo by @indicityproductions.