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Braden Kadlun's visionary voice

TikTok creator from Kugluktuk shares his personal journey, desire to promote his culture and educate others

Named one of TikTok’s Indigenous Visionary Voices for 2024, Braden Kadlun, originally from Kugluktuk, began creating videos to share his Inuit heritage and personal journey two-and-a-half years ago.

He started as a way to encourage his mother, Hovak, who he says is an incredible advocate in the revitalization of Inuit tattoos.

"I was really pushing her to join the platform to share her knowledge. She was like, 'Oh, no, no, no. Only if you do it with me.’ So I was at first a little hesitant, then her and my fiancee were like, ‘You have to share about your sobriety journey.’ I was two years sober at the time, and they said, ‘You should share your sobriety journey and our culture on your own page. I was a bit hesitant, but I ended up making my own page until we snowballed to where we are now.”

Discussing his journey with addiction and sobriety was about “showing it’s OK to be your authentic self. There are a lot of hardships that come with sobriety, but there are a lot of good things when you enter on a healing journey... there’s a lot of negativity associated with sobriety and addiction, but we don’t often focus on the positive aspects of it.”

Kadlun, who resides in Calgary, discusses in one video how he took time off from his undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary to deal with his health issues, including diagnoses of bipolar II, post-traumatic stress disorder and a neurological muscular disorder called Kennedy’s Disease that, though quite rare, disproportionately affects affects Indigenous men. In this video, he emphasizes that taking the time to heal and take charge of your life is a strength, and not the traditional notion of “failure” that is sometimes assigned to it. Kadlun is now back on track to finish his degree in philosophy and hopes to pursue postgraduate education.

“I just wanted to destigmatize a lot of these mental health-related issues. Even if I have bipolar II, I can still live a fulfilling and successful life. There is hope out there. I wanted to encourage others who might be looking for answers in their own life to find that bravery... I’m hoping that my story can maybe be a blueprint for others to enter their own healing journey.”

Many of Kadlun’s videos feature his mother, whether they are enjoying country food together (which is often), making dance videos in Iqaluit or showing off the sealskin parka Hovak made her son that caused so much controversy on the internet.

“I just want to [have] representation for Inuit kids out there that it’s OK to eat their food and be proud of where they come from. There’s a lot of curiosity, a lot of negativity about traditional Inuit diets... it’s hard not to focus on the negativity sometimes, but there’s a lot of demonizing of Inuit practices such as seal hunting, and seal skins and the way we utilize it, but it comes from a place of misunderstanding. Not taking into account that Inuit have been doing this for thousands of years. It’s our way of life, and we’re an integral part of the ecosystem. To take us away from that is to throw it off balance. Inuit voices need to be heard and listened to. It’s important that governments, when they’re making policies, take that into account.”

Kadlun’s goals going forward are to keep sharing his journey and his “authentic self, just my day-to-day life, and what that looks like... the good stuff and the bad stuff... there’s lots of love and support with what we do, curiosity that comes from a good place of wanting to learn. I’m really appreciative of all that. There’s lots of love for the videos of me and my mother; there’s lots of kindness and support there. How awesome it is to see a positive relationship between a mother and a son? As for the negativity, there’s a fair bit of racism, especially surrounding our food and the raw meat we eat.”

Kadlun travels to the North for workshops and intends to “keep making videos wherever I go... I’m focusing on what I can do right now.”

As for being named a TikTok Indigenous Visionary Voice for 2024, especially in time for National Indigenous Month, Kadlun comments, “It’s incredibly honouring. I’m very grateful to be a part of that list. There are a lot of amazing creators on that list, it’s incredible to be featured among [them].”

With Nunavut Day fast approaching, Kadlun remarked, “Nunavut Day to me is a celebration of Inuit and how far we have come as a people. It’s a beautiful day to celebrate a big piece of our homeland and our heritage.”

His message to Inuit youth is to “know that you’re enough, and that you’re beautiful the way you are. Express you’re authentic self. Learn your roots and where you come from and come to love them.”

Kira Wronska Dorward

About the Author: Kira Wronska Dorward

I attended Trinity College as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, graduating in 2012 as a Specialist in History. In 2014 I successfully attained a Master of Arts in Modern History from UofT..
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