Creating Youth Opportunities: Frances Elizabeth Moore’s Path to Social Impact
“So often we discount the knowledge and education that youth can provide to us,” Frances Elizabeth Moore, Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Youth Opportunities Fund program manager, reflects. Moore works with nonprofit and grassroot grantees as a funder, and her employer’s funding opportunities focus on Indigenous and Black communities. She onboards and supports grantees, monitoring their grant lifecycle, and does outreach and social media.
Her Anishinaabe name translates to First Eveningstar Woman and she’s a member of the Bear Clan, the King family and Timiskaming First Nation. She has lived in London, Ontario for almost two decades and grew up off reserve in the Greater Toronto Area. For the past 15 years, she’s been working in the nonprofit sector.
Moore once helped open a child and family center as the manager and also worked as Director of Operations of We Matter, an organization that focuses on Indigenous youth mental health and suicide prevention. She does education and consulting work and is creating a graphic novel for Indigenous youth around representation. In addition, she’s on two different boards of directors and mentors women in university. She got into this field with the inspiration of her family.
“Becoming a mother to my son, Bear, put things into perspective for me. I wanted him to have a different experience of growing Anishinaabe than I did and that meant stronger connections to culture, to community, and ceremonies. It was in these spaces I realized how important it was for me to use whatever power and privilege that I had in this world to educate folks on Indigenous issues, advocate for Indigenous folks and work with the community and folks that I love so much,” Moore explains.
“The more I became connected, the more I became drawn to working in those spaces and doing education advocacy, making a difference, not only for my son, but also nieces and nephews. Hopefully 20 years from now they're not having to do the same work. Conversations will shift and change and move forward and hopefully seven generations from now, we will be on new conversations and less, less having to advocate for just basic human rights,” she continues.
The first in her family to graduate from high school and university, Moore attended Georgian College for law and worked in the family courthouse but burnt out within a year. The week she left she handed back the first case file she had been assigned, that of a young Indigenous boy in foster care. “I just knew it's not somewhere that I could be for the next 20 years,” she recalls.
After moving south, Moore took time to learn, studying Indigegogy at Laurier University, holistic healing practices and colonial trauma and several programs at the Coady Institute at St. Francis Xavier. Outside of the classroom, she’s spent time in ceremony, circles and lodges sitting with elders and youth to learn more, along with reading and listening to podcasts.
“Community, for me, has always helped me stay grounded, and helped keep me connected to culture, tradition, our ways of knowing and being.”
Her advice to people considering leaving their community in search of opportunity is encouraging. “Moving out of community doesn't necessarily mean you lose any and all community. Wherever you are, you can find community. Putting yourself out there can be super uncomfortable, especially for folks that are introverted. I know, I'm one of those folks. But it comes with benefits, too. Lifelong friendships have been one of mine,” she smiles.
“Our relationship to the land is important. But we didn't always stay put. You can make community wherever you land.”
To take care of herself, she stays active in community , spends time with her son and travels. She enjoys spending time in the bush, foraging, going to the gym, watching tv and reading. Moore loves to connect with friends and elders, going to ceremony, and spending time by the water watching for eagles. Time in nature lets her disconnect from the busy city and center herself.
Moore has hopes for the future, some of which are already coming true. “I had hoped that the future generations would feel more secure in their identities. I was definitely one of those kids that struggled,” she remembers, thinking of how she struggled against stereotypes. She didn’t see herself represented in any spaces, something she’s seen shifting over the last decade. “Indigenous folks are incredibly talented in a variety of different facets, and we should be able to tell our own stories, and from our point of view,” she shares.
“It took a while, but stepping into what it meant to be an Anishinaabe kwe, there's been a lot of learning, unlearning and relearning along the way”
Growing into the person she is now has taken a lot of healing work and mistakes that she shares about generously. She hopes Indigenous youth will carry on their own healing path, to find comfort in their own skin and acceptance in community. “I think our youth just need to stand in their power and stand in the light and be unapologetically Indigenous,” she offers, thinking about how far Canada has to go towards Reconciliation and how far things have come already.
Something she wishes she was told when she was younger was, “you don't need to be anything other than who you are, and what you are and growing into yourself takes time.” She never felt like she was “enough” growing up but she’s found confidence along the way. “I no longer care to fit into the box that folks put me in. I have my own box and I can go outside of that if I want to,” she smiles.
Elizabeth Moore knows that so often we discount the knowledge and education that youth can provide to us and that’s why she does the work that she does: empowering Indigenous youth and creating opportunities. Inspired by her son, she’s walked a healing path towards a career in social impact, laying groundwork for the next generation. After finding community that built her up, she’s hoping to leave a legacy that tomorrow’s youth can build on.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.