Many Indigenous creators say TikTok is more than just a place for silly content — it’s a place for them to be the representation they did not see growing up.

Scott Wabano, a Montreal-based, two-spirit fashion designer with over 50,000 followers on the app, began their journey on the popular video-sharing platform during the pandemic.

Wabano was born and raised in Moose Cree First Nation territory, on the west coast of James Bay, and is a member of the Cree Nation of Waskaganish in Quebec. They wanted to make others laugh but also understood the importance for Indigenous people to see faces, especially two-spirit individuals, like themselves. 

“I have always been a big fan of the message that Indigenous representation is a form of harm reduction,” said Wabano.

Wabano believes the sharing of one’s gifts gives others the confidence to make their dreams a reality. Wabano said as more individuals use the platform to be the representation Indigenous youth can relate to, the youth will feel heard and celebrate who they are. 

Wabano was among a dozen Indigenous content creators to participate in a sharing circle organized by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and TikTok last Friday at the company’s Toronto headquarters.

Just like every other social media platform there is online bullying and racism, which is a concern for many Indigenous app users.

AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald told the attendees she wanted to know how she can help ensure safety for Indigenous creators within the app. 

National Chief RoseAnne Archibald with TikTok influencers after a sharing circle at TikTok Canada's headquarters in Toronto on Friday.

She wanted to discuss the possibility of keeping individuals who share hate speech and misinformation about Indigenous people’s history and experiences in Canada off the app. 

“These kinds of untruths are really damaging to young people who read that; it’s damaging to our communities; it’s damaging to the truth of this country,” said Archibald. 

She said she hopes TikTok can find a way to create a better community for all on the app. 

The social media app has 1 billion active users.

Working toward a safer space

Santee Siouxx is a content creator and model who grew up in Dakota Tipi First Nation in Manitoba and Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory in Ontario, but now resides in Toronto. 

“I love social media for the fact that racism can’t win. They try to bring you down,” Siouxx said.

“My most viral videos are filled with racist comments. Why is that? It’s because the racist people are the ones [boosting] the content. I just laugh at it … This is such a crazy world we live in.”

With over 82,000 followers, Siouxx wears her regalia and focuses on breaking down negative stereotypes in her videos, but refrains from using her real name as a way to protect her privacy online for herself and her children.

A group of people in front of a indoor mural of Toronto.

Kairyn Potts, from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation in Alberta, said he wants to give the microphone to voices that whisper.

“I hope that it becomes so saturated with Indigenous people that it’s no longer surprising, or shocking, or inspiring to see a young person whose Indigenous being successful… I want it to get so common that we get used to it,” Potts said. 

Those in attendance said they’d like to see more sharing circles as a way to empower them to share their messages and stories even louder.

This content was originally published here.