Marika Sila’s family originally thought she would be a professional skier. The Inuk TikTok star, who grew up in Canmore, Alberta and still resides there today, had the skills and guts to make it happen, but during those pivotal teenage years, her true passion bubbled to the surface. When Sila was 17, she traded in her skis to pursue acting and dance, and hasn’t looked back.
Today, her career as an artist and creator in front of the screen is even more pronounced thanks to a starring role in the TV series The Twighlight Zone and her position as a mega influencer on the machine that is TikTok.
Sila, who goes by the username @thatwarriorprincess, has built an audience of more than 300,000 followers with 3.9 million likes TikTok. Her reach is considerable and as an Indigenous Canadian creator, she’s in a unique position to educate and influence a young demographic both in Canada and abroad.
One timely movement she’s throwing her influence behind is #CancelCanadaDay.
“Canada Day marks the beginning of colonization and this year cancelling Canada Day is more important than ever with the recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves on Indian residential school grounds,” she says.
Cancelling Canada Day isn’t about taking something away. It’s about pivoting the conversation around Canadian history and showing respect to the First Nations communities whose land we live on. This year, in light of the tragic uncovering of unmarked graves on former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, it’s also about not celebrating.
“When there is a loss in the Indigenous community, all celebrations are cancelled, and we come together to grieve the loss in the community,” she says. “It is important for Canadians living on Indigenous land to show respect, love, and support by standing in solidarity with the Indigenous community at this time, and always.”
We spoke with Sila about the #CancelCanadaDay movement to help Canadians understand its importance, as well as her growing fame as an Indigenous social media creator.
Tell us about #CancelCanadaDay movement.
Yes, so, #CancelCanadaDay has been something that has been going on for many years. Right now, I think it’s more important than ever because in the Indigenous community, when there’s a loss… all celebrations are cancelled and we come together to grieve the loss in the community. And I think that it’s so important for everyone living on Indigenous land to come together and grieve together and that’s an important step towards unity and reconciliation.
Through cancelling Canada Day, we are honouring and respecting the children that were lost in the Indian residential school system and everyone affected by the residential schools. Stand in solidarity with the Indigenous community on July 1st by wearing orange, attending rallies, and doing everything you can to educate yourself, and uplift Indigneous voices.
What should we do on Canada Day instead of usual celebrations?
Wear orange. Educate yourself about what’s going on and take a minute, take some time to ask yourself, is there any internalized racism that you’re personally dealing with and… do what you can to make a difference and provide support for the Indigenous community during this time.
“A lot of what I do is to create understanding so that we can do whatever we can to mitigate racism, because there’s a lot of it, unfortunately, in Canada.”
How has the news of the discovery of children’s remains at residential schools impacted you and/or your family?
It has affected me more than I initially thought it would… We have always known that this was going on. There’s knowledge that we’ve always known in the Indigenous community and, unfortunately, many of our parents and our aunts and uncles had to live through this. So for me, it didn’t really come as a surprise.
I always dealt with the effects of residential schools in many different ways, so I didn’t think that it was going to affect me the way that it has, but just with it being in the news and people talking about it, it definitely really has taken its toll on me. It has made me realize that there are so many aspects in our lives that have been affected by the residential school system on a daily basis.
It’s taken a lot of processing. I’ve literally had to put time aside from work just to process everything that’s going on and I don’t normally have to do that. Normally I can just work through it, deal with it but I really had to take a lot of time out in nature, and journal and write in order to process it. And I know that a lot of others are dealing with it in similar and different ways as well.
Although it has been really, really tough for us to process all of all this, I do know in my heart that the truth comes to light for a reason. I believe that where there is understanding, there is compassion and racism dies in the face of compassion. I believe this is exactly why all of this has come to light right now—it’s so that people who are non-Indigenous, who live on Indigenous land, are able to understand on a deeper level and have compassion… I think that this is going to help people understand and come together in unity.
How do we continue from this point forward?
I think that how the government handles all of the recent news is an integral part to reconciliation. How this is all handled, whether it’s handled good, I think that if they check all residential school grounds… also the grounds between residential schools and the community, because many of the children were lost running away from schools trying to get home. Many of them died in the winter trying to run away and get home to their families. Those children need justice.
We need to hold accountable all the institutions and every individual that has a hand in this… and that starts with an apology from these institutions, but it ends with taking these people to court that did have a hand in this. That’s an important step.
We need justice.
Jumping over to TikTok, Indigenous creators are getting a larger share of attention there compared to other social media platforms. Why TikTok and why now?
I think that TikTok has really catered their platform to influencers and content creators that are educating. The Indigenous community right now is educating and is raising awareness about important issues and I think that the algorithm on TikTok is much different than anywhere else. Luckily, it’s a very organic algorithm where it’s showing people what they want to see and it’s not as filtered as a lot of the other platforms.
A lot of my posts have been taken down, even recently, on Instagram around missing and murdered Indigenous women and that was really disappointing because it’s 2021 and it was national MMIW Awareness Day and that’s when our posts were getting filtered. That was pretty disappointing to see, but I think that shows that there is censorship about this stuff still and I think it’s really cool that TikTok is not censoring news and is elevating Indigenous influencers to speak out about these issues.
It’s a really exciting time to be Indigenous, one of the first times in history where we’re actually allowed to be proud of who we are. Finally we’re being seen. Finally there’s equal representation or we’re working towards that at least in mainstream media… I think it’s just the beginning.
Tell me a bit about the content you create.
Well, I’m a dancer and I do stunts and special skills for film and TV. So I share a lot of that side of myself. I specialize in nunchucks, staff and sword handling, fire spinning, hoop dancing and stunts. But I also share a lot of videos where I’m educating my followers about Indigenous rights issues, but also about the amazing, beautiful aspects of our culture that I don’t want to ever be forgotten.
There’s aspects of our culture that I think are still sacred and it’s important for us to share them so that we don’t lose that knowledge. I do what I can to share what I know… so that anyone watching who is either part Inuk or Indigenous or even just inspired by the Inuit culture can get a glimpse into what it was like for us thousands of years ago or into some of our traditional ways.
“There’s obviously so much injustice within the Indigenous community that we have to fight for… but there’s also this incredible, expansive culture we can share with the world.”
What is the reaction from elders in the community to sharing this knowledge?
I don’t personally know any elders that don’t approve of it. In my grandfather’s book I, Nuligak, he speaks about knowledge, specifically about these puppets that we used to make back in the day… They would make black bears, polar bears and grizzly bears, even geese and foxes and stuff into puppets for the kids. These puppets were made with whalebone, but this knowledge in how to make these puppets was lost when a pandemic hit in the north. He said that was because the Indigenous elders were holding their secrets. They weren’t sharing that knowledge with the kids… and that’s exactly why that knowledge was lost.
My grandfather was the first Inuvialuit man to learn how to read and write. He was a storyteller and he wrote this book for me and for all of his grandkids to enjoy, so we can get a glimpse into our culture and how it was pre-colonization. I know that he would want me to share because he was sharing himself.
How do you stand up for your ancestral culture while also trying to build a cultural business model?
Yeah, it’s really hard to navigate. I always do what my intuition is telling me. I feel like my creator and my ancestors speak to me through my intuition… anything that I do, any video I put out, any interview that I take, no matter what it is, I check in with my intuition and I just ask myself, Does this feel right? Do I feel like the world needs to hear this right now?
A lot of what inspires my content is answering questions that other people ask me or providing knowledge that I feel like is nagging at me to get out. There’s knowledge that I feel like needs to be shared with the world… somehow it’s going to make someone or anyone understand the Indigenous community. A lot of what I do is to create understanding so that we can do whatever we can to mitigate racism, because there’s a lot of it, unfortunately, in Canada.
How do you feel the industry is handling Indigenous representation? What more would you like to see?
I think that representation in the mainstream media for the Indigenous peoples is just starting and we’re just dipping our toes into the mainstream media, which is a really inspiring time to be an influencer.
Within the past year we’ve been getting more attention and I think it’s really important for us to be bringing awareness or to be taking this time to educate and spread knowledge and to really work towards unity… because there’s so much division throughout the world. I’m always trying to do my best to inspire unity.
There are so many aspects to our culture that I think haven’t been seen yet. Just our belief systems alone are so inspiring and I think that they’re important to share. Our belief system around respect, love, and humility… It’s so important to share those really positive aspects of our community.
There’s obviously so much injustice within the Indigenous community that we have to fight for. We have to fight for justice for the MMIW and the children that were found on the Indian residential school grounds. There’s so much we have to fight for, but there’s also this incredible, expansive culture we can share with the world… It’s important not to forget about that as well.