Two Blackfoot women from southern Alberta are among 30 Canadian creators on the online platform TikTok to be selected for the first-ever TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators.
Celeste Day Rider said she was shocked to learn she was selected for the program.
“There’s no way they chose me, they must have had thousands and thousands of applicants,” she joked.
“It’s honestly a huge opportunity for me.”
The six-week course is a partnership between TikTok — a quickly-growing online content platform — and the National Screen Institute (NSI), and is hosted by a variety of advisers.
“Each of them will get to participate in (a number) of workshops with other Indigenous TikTok content creators to learn kind of the ins and outs about social media presence, how to create your content and utilizing all the tools that are on the TikTok app,” explained NSI program manager Sarah Simpson-Yellowquill.
“A lot of them (already have) an idea of where they want to go or how to they want to use their voice, and we’re jest providing them with more access and getting them to meet folks who can help them further down in their career.”
Simpson-Yellowquill said there are participants from almost every province and territory, all with different types of content.
“I make a variety of videos, but I would say the most videos I make and the ones that get the most attention are the more serious ones — ones that have to do with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement, residential schools,” Day Rider said.
“My ultimate goal is just to use all the tools I’ve learned and make my TikTok better and hope that, you know, continue to like it and follow me.”
Billi-J Heavy Shields uses her TikTok as a healing tool after losing her brother Lane Tailfeathers. She also likes to sprinkle in some humour, personality and education.
“I’m still learning my culture,” she admitted.
“I lost a lot because my parents were both residential school survivors, so I lost my language. I didn’t learn it growing up, so now I’m teaching it to myself and I’m showing TikTok along the way what I’m learning.”
Heavy Shields said one of her favourite parts thus far has been to get to know the other creators.
“I really like (having the connection),” she said. “It’s a good feeling. I feel safe there. I feel safe to talk about what we need to talk about.
“I’m just excited to see where this goes, and I just want to say to everyone: stay tuned.”
The program is set to wrap up on Dec. 17. While there aren’t yet plans to launch a second series of the TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators, Simpson-Yellowquill said the massive amount of interest is a good sign.