These Indigenous TikTokers are using their platform to educate everyday Canadians about Indigenous culture
Canada’s Indigenous TikTok creators are using their platform to educate ordinary Canadians about Indigenous culture and customs. Each is unique in their TikTok style. We chat with two TikTok influencers about spreading this good medicine on social media and discuss how they were able to capitalize on TikTok.
Jayroy Makokis is a 29 year old Nehiyaw (Cree) man from Saddle Lake Alberta living in amiskwaciwâskahikan ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᕀᐋᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Edmonton).
Cree TikTok creator Jayroy Makokis started reconnecting with his Cree culture and through his culture he was able to break through the intergenerational trauma of his children.
Quick Fact: The Cree or Nehiyawak (neh-HEE-oh-wuk) in the Cree language are the most populous and widely distributed Indigenous peoples in Canada. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
“A lot of young people are lost and want to go home, they don’t know how to get home, they need to be shown the beauty of our culture and the healing aspects,” Makokis said.
“My Cree culture has given me a lot of healing… I grew up in an alcoholic and dysfunctional family and once I discovered my culture, life was wonderful. My children have never seen the things I have seen.
According to Makokis, being able to share Cree culture with people who are not connected to their culture is a privilege he can do through the TikTok platform.
“A lot of Aboriginal people don’t know how to take that first step to reconnecting with their culture. That’s why I want to share my experiences of practicing my culture on TikTok.
Makokis uses a lot of humor, sobriety talk, and moose hides for his TikToks.
“TikTok is a great platform to share my story,” he added. “Elders always say that when you share your story there is healing in it”
Follow jayroymakokis TikTok.
Sherry Mckay is an Ojibway Anishinabe woman from Treaty 1 territory. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she is a member of the Sakgeeng First Nation.
“My style focuses on Indigenous comedy with a dash of outreach,” said Sherry Mckay, Canada’s Top TikTok Influencer.
Quick Fact: The Ojibwe (also Ojibwa, Ojibway, and Chippewa) are Indigenous peoples of Canada and the United States who are part of a larger cultural group known as the Anishinaabeg. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Mckay said she views her work in multimedia as a form of decolonizing the TikTok digital space as Indigenous peoples. When she launched TikTok, she used the platform to educate non-Indigenous communities.
“When I started on TikTok, I was a little more into your face content,” she explained.
Mckay initially focused on raising awareness, but found it very emotionally taxing. She said she strayed from this style just to protect her peace, although she does incorporate it from time to time.
Mckay describes his TikTok technique as a mix of unconventional audio clips. She explained: “I would use audios from a movie that everyone knows, where people are arguing and then it’s like aboriginal people in Canada… it blows people away when it fits so perfectly.”
She also added that she is not a “custodian” person and that she doesn’t even like the word “custodian” but rather that there are indigenous people who “protect” cultural knowledge and authentic keepers of traditional knowledge. “I also don’t want to cross any other boundaries with other Indigenous content creators.”
Mckay likes the idea of safe spaces to learn about Indigenous culture and languages. “As Indigenous people, a lot was taken away from us, a lot of things that we couldn’t learn from our relationships.”
TikTok is a great safe space to learn more about Indigenous identity, Mckay said. Although she is Ojibwe, she first discovered the Cree culture. “I was taking wherever I could find it because I didn’t grow up with it,” she explained.
For example, “I slightly followed the powwow etiquette on TikTok because there were a lot of white people commenting on my videos and there wasn’t a huge Indigenous presence on social media.
Mckay said, “What is good in the Cree community may not be good in the Ojibwe community or vice versa. Take everything with a grain of salt and be respectful.
She added that sometimes TikTok is not a safe space. So, just know that there is another side to this. Some people online are not your friends.
When asked if she was able to capitalize on TikTok, Mckay said she was unable to earn any income from TikTok viewers or subscribers. However, she was able to secure opportunities for corporate sponsorships, guest speakers, and workshops.
She noted that she doesn’t shame other Indigenous influencers on TikTok who accept corporate sponsorship.
Instead, she encourages other Indigenous influencers to find ways to leverage the popular social media app. During the pandemic, many Indigenous influencers have received contracts from major corporate campaigns such as Canadian Tire and Royal Bank of Canada.
“We deserve a piece of this pie too, a big piece of this pie. Some people shame us for taking that money, but I’m a mother and I have a family to support,” Mckay said.
“It’s the first time I’ve been independent. I can legitimately feed my family and pay my bills.
Mckay ends the conversation by noting that “people look at us and if we treat each other badly, they think they can do that to us too”.
“Also don’t forget that the young people are watching,” Mckay added. “Remember, not everyone is online for your benefit. Some are more concerned with the view than making a difference.
Follow Sherry.Mckay on TikTok.