Cree TikTok creator using platform to help build community gets boost from development program

A Cree mother is striving to connect with other Indigenous parents on TikTok, bringing those who scroll through her feed a laugh and a sense of community.

Kelly Kristin tries to keep it real on her TikTok account. Her short videos give a snapshot of her daily life as a single mom, non-profit founder and student.

Kristin also wants to make people laugh, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic forced families to stay apart for their own safety.

“Having that Indigenous humour on TikTok and seeing it in yourself and going, ‘Oh my gosh, that person’s just like me,’ and understanding that humour — it just almost feels like home,” she said Sunday.

Kristin, a Winnipegger who is originally from Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba, is one of 40 participants in a TikTok development program for Indigenous content creators that’s being run by the National Screen Institute and the social media platform.

The program aims to help people increase their presence, hone their storytelling skills and learn the building blocks for a digital career.

A woman wearing glasses with long black hair in a ponytail holds her phone up to take a selfie. She's waving at the camera and standing in front of a playground.
Kelly Kristin is taking part in a TikTok accelerator program for Indigenous content creators, which aims to help people increase their presence, hone their storytelling skills and learn the building blocks for a digital career. (Emile Lapointe/CBC)

Bit ot’s more than a learning opportunity, Kristin said — it’s a chance to meet others with similar interests.

“Being accepted into this program, it’s almost like another home. You just feel right at home when you log in with everyone, and there’s all that humour flying around, and you’re doing nothing but smiling for an hour. It’s amazing,” she said.

The program is in its second year and is still growing, program manager Sarah Simpson-Yellowquill said.

“By having a platform where Indigenous creators can have control to share stories in this type of media, whether it be through comedy skits, makeup, teaching lessons, gaming … it just gives them space to share and build a community of followers,” Simpson-Yellowquill said.

She believes the course is important to help foster storytelling skills.

Kelly Kristin posts on her TikTok about daily life as an Indigenous parent and student. (Emile Lapointe/SRC)

Some of the 30 participants from the 2021 program have gone on to partner with different organizations or companies, or use their platform to educate people about Indigenous languages or cultural practices, she said. 

Others have come back as guest speakers for the current cohort of 40 students, Simpson-Yellowquill said.

“It’s super exciting to see just that growth within a year and that they’re able to come back and kind of already start giving back to the community as well,” she said.

Kristin hopes to do more giving back after completing the program.

She currently uses her TikTok platform to promote her non-profit, the Indigenous Parents Community, which works to support parents in Winnipeg through their professional and personal development, and provide mentorship and leadership development.

Kristin started the community to address the gaps she noticed during her own education.

She’s currently in the University of Winnipeg’s business administration program, majoring in marketing, and receives a lot of support from her family, but other parents pursuing education aren’t so lucky, she said.

“There’s a lot of gaps and unfortunately, they fall through the cracks. Sometimes they can’t continue because there’s a lot of barriers, and what I’m trying to do is point out these barriers, raise awareness and help these parents go through school,” Kristin said.

“We’re spreading that message and letting them know that you’re not alone, so when you’re scrolling TikTok and you feel like you’re the only one in this and you’re kind of feeling a little down … there I am saying, ‘Hey, here I am too, and you’re not alone.'”

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