Justin Langan

Making Change and a Brighter Future: Justin Langan Shares His Time and Hope For Future

“No matter where you come from, you can affect change, not just in your own community, but everywhere across the country. There's nothing Indigenous youth can't do,” declares Justin Langan. He is from Swan River, Manitoba and now lives in Winnipeg where he’s in his fourth year of his bachelor’s degree at the University of Manitoba. Majoring in Political Studies and minoring in Philosophy, he’s hoping to go onto law school after he graduates. 

When he first started school, he tried a range of courses he was interested in and thought about his future and what field of studies would benefit him most as a person and a leader on his own terms. Political studies felt like the best fit for a positive future so that’s what he’s been working towards. 

Growing up, his mom always encouraged him to be a lawyer but he didn’t want to follow that path. Now that he’s decided it might actually be a good idea, he says, “It really goes to show your mother knows you best, I guess.” What changed his mind was the future he envisioned and the way law school seemed the best path to achieving it. 

“The thing about me is I like creating change and effecting change in communities, and having the legal expertise on your belt, and eventually going into politics, you kind of have to know this stuff, if you want to be a better changemaker at a bigger level. That's really what drove my decision this past year to go to law school,” he recalls. 

His first time attending university in Winnipeg, he ended up not succeeding and returning to his home community he had been desperate to escape. Like many Indigenous students he’s known, he had a pessimism about where he was from but in returning to learn more about his culture and mature, he started to see his hometown differently, as a part of himself and the groundwork on which he does anything. 

For his next attempt at school, he went to Assiniboine Community College to study journalism and he had a different perspective on what it might be like if things didn’t work out this time. “There's no shame at all in going back to this community, and taking what I've learned in university, even if for a year or four, and making that community better if I can,” he reflects.

Illustration by Shaikara David

His advice to Indigenous students is, “I think it's important to reflect on your own identity and where you come from. Once you know where you come from, you know where you're going… Use your identity, and use who you are to pursue whatever you want to do, you can do anything, honestly… Be proud of who you are, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Bring that to university, because [schools] want someone who is unique, who understands themselves, understands their culture, and can help make communities better.”

One of the biggest obstacles he faced was overcoming self-doubt. “I think that's something a lot of indigenous youth go through is doubt within yourself, whether that be doubt thrusted upon you by society, whether that be doubt, about who you are and what you can do,” he reflects.  He overcame self-doubt by being himself and not becoming the person he felt pressured to be.

 “There's no one way to be Indigenous… You can do anything you want. There's no restrictions on that,” he encourages.  Working hard in school and in his volunteer work, Langan is rising above the doubts inside him. “I think it's important to understand that self doubt is in everyone and to not be ashamed of that. You can overcome it one step at a time,” he continues. 

If he could share a message with his younger self it would be to take it easy because life isn’t that serious. Growing up, he was often worried about the future, how he could improve it and where he fit in life. He wishes he was more accepting that mistakes are part of the journey and not everything has to happen right now. “You don't have to change the world today. It all takes small steps… It's a wonderful ride so experience it, and just enjoy being yourself. Enjoy your community. Give yourself to your community, Appreciate your friends and family and your inner circle. Life is long, but it's also short so just take it easy and take a breath,” he concludes. 

To balance his mental wellness while busy with school and volunteering, Langan likes to relax on his computer, edit photos, do artistic things, go for a walk, play with his cats and experience life. He tries to step outside his responsibilities and look outside. Taking time to regain perspective and understand there’s a whole world happening outside of him also helps. 

When it comes to inspiration, Langan looks to his family, his boyfriend, Indigenous youth, the stories of the communities he volunteers in and advocates for, and everything that surrounds him. He’s motivated by positive change, opportunities to rest and do the volunteer work that he loves, the chance to be himself and live his life. 

Knowing that no matter where you come from, you can affect change, not just in your own community, but everywhere across the country, Justin Langan is furthering his education and volunteering to do just that. Believing in his heart that there's nothing Indigenous youth can't do, he’s doing everything he can to make a difference and get his degree to prepare himself for the future and all he wants to achieve.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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