Indigenous in Alberta, with Inuk actor and influencer Marika Sila. Words :: Danielle Paradis.
Marika Sila remembers school as one of the first places she really began to think of her Inuit heritage. Growing up in the predominantly Caucasian small town of Canmore, Alberta, she noticed she was different than the other kids and recalls experiencing bullying and segregation. Now a full-time influencer and actress in film and television, Marika attributes much of her success to how she navigated those early years.
“Going through what I went through in my younger years primed me to be who I am today. As a performer, you cannot focus on what other people think of you and still show up authentically. I am blessed to have a deeply rooted confidence…it has freed me from caring about what people think and has shown me that love always wins.”
Marika’s family is originally from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, and she spent her early childhood in Yellowknife with her parents, Angus Cockney and Trish Bartley, and brother, Jesse Cockney. She currently lives in Canmore, and can be found on TikTok and Instagram.
As a social media influencer, she showcases beautiful Inuit and Indigenous fashion, promotes Indigenous businesses, answers questions on how Canadians can support the Indigenous community, discusses Indigenous rights issues and demonstrates her incredible athletic abilities with hoops, martial arts (nunchucks!), and fire dancing to her half a million followers.
As half-Inuk and half-Caucasian, Marika feels a responsibility to bridge the gap of understanding between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people. She is passionate about reconciliation and elevating the voices and perspectives of the Indigenous peoples across Canada.
“My goal is to create a deeper understanding amongst our nation, because I believe that where there is understanding there is compassion, and racism dies in the face of compassion,” she says.
This belief can be seen throughout her work as an influencer and actress. Among her many projects, Marika is a motivational speaker and currently working on a documentary about Canada’s modern-day Indigenous affairs. Marika credits her parents for teaching her everything she knows about her culture. Her father was placed in residential school for 13 years, so the recent news about the Indian residential school system really hit home for her.
“Reconnecting is one of my top priorities,” says Marika. “I believe that bringing back ceremony is an important aspect to healing within the Indigenous community.”
Marika loves to teach her followers about her Inuit heritage and uses her platform to explain concepts like Land Back and Cancel Canada Day to her audience.
“I am passionate about explaining Indigenous rights issues to non-Indigenous people because I like to think that once someone understands they are more likely to support. And, it is so important to have non-Indigenous allies.”
“I get so much support nowadays, it still surprises me because I was so used to being bullied growing up,” Marika says. On her platform, Marika deals with hateful and racist messages with compassion. One post has Shawn Mendes’ “It’ll Be Okay” playing while Marika looks at messages she has received and responds by singing along with Mendes: “Imma love you either way.”
Marika highlights five ways non-Indigenous people can support the Indigenous community:
›Share Indigenous-created content and elevate Indigenous voices.
›Show up to Indigenous-led protests.
›Donate to Indigenous-led fundraisers and non-profit foundations.
›Educate yourself! There are many resources out there like this free course from Indigenous Canada.
›Support Indigenous-owned businesses.
Marika’s goal has always been to build a platform with her talents to raise awareness about the importance of Indigenous rights and climate issues. She also works to promote other Indigenous artists as the owner of the RedPath Talent, an emerging Indigenous talent agency and production company.
This summer she will be producing, directing, and hosting her first documentary, traveling across Canada to interview Indigenous influencers, elders, and community leaders about their thoughts on reconciliation. Production will begin on July 1, a day steeped in symbolism and the focal point of the Idle No More #cancelcanadaday movement.
“A lot of Canadians don’t understand the concept behind Cancel Canada Day,” Marika says. Within Indigenous communities when there is a loss—the present case being the ongoing discoveries of thousands of unmarked graves on residential school grounds across the country—it is common to cancel celebrations around events like Canada Day in order to take the time to come together as a community and to support one another. She explains that cancelling Canada Day is meant to generate a pause, to honour the Indigenous community in this time, and to take time to reflect upon Canada’s colonial history and the systems that got us here and continue to cause harm. It’s a fitting time to launch work on her project which is based on finding positive ways in which Canadians can contribute to reconciliation, so we can move forward towards unity.
Danielle Paradis is an Indigenous writer, editor and educator living in Edmonton.