SOI @ CRE Blog: Da Chen

Da Chen is an SOI alum from the Arctic 2017 expedition.

Canadian Roots Exchange Conference

Wow…what an amazing experience. The Canadian Roots Exchange Conference this past week was quite a journey. I was fortunate to be a part of the Students on Ice delegation with youth from across Canada. Throughout the week, we learned together, we grew closer and got to know each other on a deeper and more personal level. It was a deeply emotional week of learning and understanding.

SOI delegates Émile, Da, Andrew, and Jake.


During the conference, I heard presentations from elders, university presidents and youth leaders from across Canada. I heard stories about the meaning of Canada and the relationship some Indigenous groups have with Canada along with their pains and traumas. It was eye-opening experience to hear about some perspectives such as the radical ideas of abolishing Canada and Canada day and the anger some Indigenous groups have towards this country. These conversations and voices raised many questions about what I know and about my place in this difficult conversation.

SOI Arctic Partnerships and Programs Manager Caitlyn Baikie, and Canada C3 Youth Ambassador Mélanie-Rose Frappier speaking at the opening keynote (left). SOI delegation attending the opening keynote (right).


One of the most personal issues that was raised this week was about language. Many Indigenous groups struggle to teach and maintain their language to the younger generations. I have a personal connection and understanding on this issue. I had this conversation about a month ago with my parent about the importance of language in connecting to our culture. We talked about why its important for me to know how to read and understand Chinese. Understanding my language allowed me to access so much of my history, culture and identity. Having this knowledge allowed me to connect to the past and understand the knowledge and perspectives of my ancestors and my people. Losing a language or the ability to read or understand a language would kills off the connection to the past and cause much pain for the individual. For many Indigenous groups whose cultures depends so much on oral stories, losing the language means losing so much of their past. Due to years of residential school, many Indigenous languages are disappearing and these loss means the loss of culture, history, and identity. It’s a loss that will be devastating for many groups and their future. From my personal experience, I was able to understand a bit more of this pain.

The week was filled with many more eye-opening moments. Ranging from listening to a panel of young superstar leaders, to learning about amazing projects and initiatives led by youth to connecting and meeting like-minded friends. It was such a privilege and honour to be surrounded by so many bright and beautiful mind as we explore the difficult topic of reconciliation. What is reconciliation and who is it for? How do we move forward and mend the distrust of our time? And what is each of our role in this effort to move forward. So many difficult questions and I was so fortunate to be with the Students on Ice Delegation. With amazing minds from around Canada, I really was able to learn and immerse and reflect in a way never before. With laughter, tears, smiles and pain, we were able to navigate this difficult conversation together. I am so grateful for this learning experience and really look forward to our journey ahead.


Evening programming included a drum circle and round dance.


SOI delegation with their workshop attendees! The delegation hosted a workshop about myths vs realities in the North and in Inuit culture.


Workshop in action! Led by Mega, Ashley, and Amber.

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