At first, Kayla Mintz was a little embarrassed about creating a TikTok account.
Mintz, who is from the Wolf Clan of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation in Yukon, says she first decided to sign up for the social media platform to break pandemic isolation.
But she quickly discovered a thriving community of Indigenous content creators. Over the past few months, the hashtag #NativeTikTok has racked up over two billion views. Although TikTok is well-known as a platform where dances and comedy videos go viral, Mintz found an online community showcasing present-day Indigenous realities.
It’s a community that she says understands and supports her.
“I like it because I’m able to see other Indigenous cultures or I’m able to relate to them based on what their lives are like, because a lot of Indigenous people have the same background or history,” said Mintz, who is known as @kaylz787 to her followers.
She says the platform has helped her deal with the traumatic news of unmarked graves being found near residential schools across the country.
Now, Mintz is using the platform to teach Indigenous people healthy healing methods through physical fitness. She also uses her account to showcase Yukon’s natural beauty, raise awareness about her mental health struggles and share humorous videos.
She says a lot of her followers really appreciate her openness and have reached out to her for help.
Empowering Indigenous people through TikTok
Nesta Hager, a Northern Tutchone artist from the Selkirk First Nation, uses TikTok to showcase her beaded artwork and help empower other Indigenous peoples.
Hager, whose account handle is @missnesta, says Indigenous individuals are using the app to challenge stereotypes about their cultures, and let the world “understand our lives beyond the narrative that we’re drunk and lazy.”
Hager sees TikTok as a powerful tool for breaking down Indigenous stereotypes among non-Indigenous users.
“We’re all not the same, there’s so many different cultures and we look different,” saidHager. “Some Natives are millionaires and some Natives are out there struggling, asking people for help. People are seeing that now.”
Hager, herself, has discovered so much about other Indigenous cultures through the app.
“I follow so many Native creators all over Canada, from powwow dancers to people that are on their sobriety path to fellow artists doing woodworking or some kind of beadwork,” says Hager.
Along with teaching people phrases in the Northern Tutchone language, Hager says she aims to empower people who have been beat down all their lives.
“I am 35 and just starting to stand in my power, accept and embrace who I am to the core, and I really feel like we all deserve that and we shouldn’t have to be beat down first,” said Hager, who has survived the intergenerational impact of residential schools.
Both Hager and Mintz say TikTok have shown audiences that Indigenous peoples have their own unique sense of humor.
“There’s a lot of humour on it as well,” says Hager. “Like Natives, we love to joke around and make fun of each other and tease each other [it’s] just part of who we are.”
TikTok slowly taking off in Yukon
Hager and Mintz say TikTok is just taking off in Yukon. They say many people are on it, but not that many are actually creating content.
They want that to change and to see content from Yukon’s various First Nations.
“I honestly think TikTok has changed my life for the better,” said Hager.