Indigenous comic book convention aims to inspire youth in Oneida First Nation

Lisa Jackson, Yeyatalunyuhe George, and Ira Timothy are all playing a role in Canada's first Indigenous comic-con. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

A local First Nations man hopes to inspire young people in his community with Canada’s first Indigenous comic book convention in Oneida First Nation.

The event is called Indigi-Con, and is the brainchild of Ira Timothy, a Delaware First Nations man who has been influenced by his own positive experiences with comic book culture and mainstream conventions.

“I started thinking maybe we can come up with a smaller comic con, a miniature one, that can go to a community and bring all the elements that you would find at San Diego or Fan Expo.”

Not only does Timothy recognize Indigi-Con as an opportunity to share his passion with young people, but he also sees it as an opportunity to transcend negative First Nations stereotypes.

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“I was going back and trying to think of all the Indigenous superheroes, and I could only come up with three. And all of them were very stereotypical.”

Timothy is the communications coordinator for the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, an organization that is helping to support the project. AIAI started publishing an educational comic book of its own in December, 2015. At least one if its Indigenous superheroes will be making an appearance at Indigi-Con, Timothy said.

“I was looking at Nurse Hope the other day, and I thought ‘my god, this person looks exactly like a friend of mine,'” he explained.

Nurse Hope is the protaganist in Nurse Hope To The Rescue, which was written and designed by Indigenous people through AIAI’s HIV/AIDS Education Program. The comic is double sided; a second story named Raven Against The Dice was produced by the association’s Responsible Gambling Program.

Nurse Hope is the superhero of AIAI’s ‘Nurse Hope to the Rescue’ educational comic. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

“When we tell our own stories amongst ourselves, we learn and understand differently,” said AIAI’s responsible gambling educator, Lisa Jackon.

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“Kids have to be able to see themselves,” said Jackson. “If they can’t see themselves in a character, then how are they going to relate?”

Yeyatalunyuhe George will be making an appearance at Indigi-Con as Nurse Hope. As a personal support worker in her professional life, George says the character is a natural fit.

“I’ve been in health care for over eleven years now, and my daughter sees me leave for work in scrubs. I feel like I can be that hero not just for my daughter, but also for the community.”

Nurse Hope won’t be the only cosplaying guest at Indigi-Con. Green Ranger, Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, and Black Mask are scheduled to appear at the event as well.

Timothy is also organizing vendors and different activities.

“There’s a lot of First Nations youth that are very shy, and I think if we can get them into cosplaying, it’ll give them a level of being able to go out there, put themselves out there… and they’ll hold on to that. So when the mask comes off, they’ll still go out there and have fun.”

For Timothy himself, being able to cosplay has been an escape and a confidence-booster. That’s why he wants to share the experience, and make it accessible for young people in his community.

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“It’s a way to have fun, but still heal,” he said. “It’s a way to go out there and interact, but still be within your community. And again, gradually, it might be able to branch out.”

If it’s successful, Timothy hopes to turn Indigi-Con into a travelling event that’ll visit different First Nations communities.

It’s taking place in Oneida First Nation at the Community Centre on August 19th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event costs $5 for families of up to five people, and is free for Indigenous youth.

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