Aboriginal Youth Worker

by Pam Chamberlain, submitted 2011

Darcy Lindberg remembers walking across the handrails of the old wooden bridge connecting Augustana's residential Ravine Complex to the rest of campus. He did it on a dare, demonstrating even then his willingness to tackle a challenge head on.

Shortly after graduation, Darcy applied for a coordinator's position at Alberta's Future Leaders (AFL), a program he had worked for as a summer youth worker. "It felt like a leap in terms of my professional experience at the time, but I was a quick learner, and I dived in," Darcy says.

Darcy has been with the AFL program for the past five years. "I got a master's degree in life training my first year on the job," he jokes. "It was hands-on work as I went out into diverse communities to build relationships face to face." He credits his arts degree with giving him critical-thinking and people skills that are invaluable in his day-to-day work.

AFL develops leadership skills among youth in Aboriginal communities across Alberta through sports, recreation and art. Darcy facilitates training events for Aboriginal summer youth workers in First Nations communities and Métis settlements. Programs range from basketball and hockey or visual and performing arts to break dancing and wilderness survival. Darcy also runs a wilderness retreat for Aboriginal youth to learn leadership skills through outdoor adventure activities. "It's a blessing to be part of it," he says. "It's an honour to watch the kids' personal development and growth in self-esteem. I can see it on their faces. I can't think of many professions that could feel this rewarding."

The job has taken Darcy to parts of Alberta most people don't get a chance to visit, from the northern communities of Meander River and Fort Chipewyan, to Piikani Nation in southern Brocket. He says he's lucky to have had the opportunity to learn about the cultural foundations of First Nations and Métis communities. He's taken part in treaty days, assembly days, and powwows with people from different cultures across the province. "The people in these communities have been very welcoming," he explains. "They want others to learn about and participate in their cultures. If you are genuinely curious, open-minded, and respectful, you'd be surprised how welcome you would be."

Through his work, Darcy has repeatedly witnessed a lack of grass-roots legal representation for Aboriginal communities. He believes there's a shortage of people who are able and willing to interpret the law from a community-focussed perspective. Determined to meet this need, Darcy is off to the University of Victoria to purse a law degree focusing on environmental and Aboriginal issues. He plans to help Aboriginal communities settle land ownership disputes.

Tackling challenges with characteristic gratitude and daring, Darcy is determined to make a difference.