Diandre Thomas-Hart

Lifting Her Voice for Youth and her People: Diandre Hart’s Heart for Community

“I want to continue promoting each other, uplifting each other as young people in this generation so that we can set good examples for future generations,” shares Diandre Thomas Hart, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. An urban treaty member to Peguis First Nation, she’s the Executive Director of Buffalo Hyde Creative, a Cree and Metis owned digital media arts company. 

Hart grew up in the north end of Winnipeg, raised by a mom who was a 60 Scoop survivor, and a dad who was an intergenerational survivor with parents and siblings having attended residential school. Disconnected from her mom's side, they had no family to return to in Peguis so they lived as the first generation in the family living in the city. Her father was in and out of her life and she found forgiveness as she learned more about his experiences. 

Growing up as a young Indigenous woman in the North End was tough and as a middle child, she did a lot of things on her own. Her mom worked nights, her step dad struggled with alcohol and there was violence in their home. Getting involved in the community helped her stay out of the house. As she became more involved, she started to wonder about why things were the way they were and why some kids face more barriers than others. Now a parent herself, Hart prioritizes having a healthy family.

As a student, she went to a big, diverse vocational school in the city where she was in class with a lot of other Indigenous kids. Her soccer coach gave her a certificate that said “overly involved in everything”. Playing sports, acting in theatre, learning about media and film at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People three days a week, she had a lot on the go. She wanted to be independent and put her energy into positive things to create a better life for herself. 

“Growing up being Indigenous, combining technology and traditions, I just thought it would be such an amazing idea to focus on and how can I do that. Just learning about being innovative as an Indigenous person is really inspiring and what I've gained from my school experience,” she recalls. 

Over the years, she’s found ways to create positive outcomes and experiences, treating everyone with respect and kindness, creating a lot of community support for herself. She’s focused on her community, her family and making better decisions for herself, coming from a place of understanding about the social history of her people. 

Working with young people and having reconciliation-based discussions with them brought her joy, and she moved to Toronto at the age of 21 to work with a national youth organization. She ran programs and planned youth conferences, gaining on the ground experience while meeting inspiring young people.

Illustration by Shaikara David

Later, she learned more about politics and government, advising the mayor of Winnipeg for eight years and working for all three levels of government on several city initiatives as a tri level project assistant. She’s recently stepped out of an elected youth leadership position with a Southern Chiefs organization, where she learned about First Nations governance. 

Working in governance, Hart learned more about Indigenous communities, their needs and priorities. She looked up to people like Nahanni Fontaine and Bernadette Smith. When her dad worked in the legislature, she got to come learn about government on career day and even stand in for the premier at a rehearsal for an event. 

“I think that kind of governance is really meaningful, too, because it's not only our people, we're representative of everyone within our communities and the people that we live and share land amongst. As a treaty person, I think that's really important to respect the diversity in the lands that we share. How we work together, how we build our communities alongside each other, I think is really important work,” she reflects. 

In governance, she learned transferable skills that will help her in her business, particularly her confidence in speaking. It’s also something she honed in high school drama training. “Learning how to use your voice and saying the things from your heart when it's needed and not just to say things, I think that's a really important thing, especially in leadership that we need to focus on,” she offers.

 Her next stop was in pursuing her passion project being creative and celebrating Indigenous talent. “Combining both the arts and the technologies and the integration of our people, it's just very natural. That's the path I've been going on, and I'm really excited about it,” she beams.

Together Hart and her partner are building their business and learning their languages side by side, working on graphic design projects and researching business grants to maximize their opportunities as Indigenous business owners. They are going to be incorporating so they can apply for business loans and grants in hopes of becoming an Indigenous-owned pre and post production studio, making video games and being a hub of Media Arts that's Cree and Metis- led where people can learn. “I think programming is very important. I also think sustaining your family is also very important. I want to figure out how I can serve my community and do both,” she confides. 

In sharing her story, Hart hopes to inspire Indigenous young people to go after their passions and pursue the many opportunities available to youth today. “There's so many different career options to explore, so many different avenues of education, there's endless possibilities and supports that we can take proper advantage of in our generation now,” she muses. 

After working in youth leadership and governance, she’s putting her skills to work as an entrepreneur and a mother. Being overly involved in everything helped her cope as a youth and now thrive as an adult. Promoting and uplifting other Indigenous young people is how Diandre Hart is looking to set good examples for future generations as she’s busy raising one of her own.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
    ,
    ,
  • Province/Territory
    Manitoba
  • Date
    January 18, 2024
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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