Michael Redhead Champagne
For several years, Indigenous peoples have witnessed a spate of suicides, revealing the high level of suffering experienced in their communities. Michael is deeply and genuinely empathetic to this as he came close to being one of these tragic statistics. As an Indigenous child from Northern Manitoba, he was adopted by a Winnipeg couple who fostered hundreds of children and spoke openly with him about his background. Despite the loving environment provided by his parents, the challenge of being Indigenous and disconnected from your natural family weighed heavy as the family moved again and again. He didn’t feel like he belonged.
When he was 10 years old, Michael felt the same urge as many of his Indigenous peers: he wanted to take his own life. He decided to carry out his plan at the end of a school day when the bullying he experienced pushed him to the edge. That particular afternoon, his teacher gave him a book, knowing that his family couldn’t afford to buy it. Before giving the book to Michael, she left a handwritten note inside it, reminding him of the talents and qualities that she appreciated in him. Inspired by her gift, he decided to put off his plan, since he had a book to read and someone who believed in him.
All it took was a few sincere words and one small action to change the course of Michael’s life. This lesson has stayed with him ever since, and he strives to pass on this same kindness to Indigenous youth in Winnipeg’s inner city and across Canada. As a positive role model, he offers them friendship through love, kindness and generosity. Michael wants young people to have confidence in themselves, even when things are tough, and that every problem has a solution. He has finally found his place through community involvement and connecting to his culture. For him, this is the best way to maintain his mental health.