Hometown: Six Nations, ON
Occupation: Student at York University (Theatre – Major, Indigenous Studies – Minor)
Aleria McKay is a passionate, determined, and brave young Indigenous woman, who strives to work hard in all areas of her life. She graduated high school from Brantford Collegiate Institute as an Ontario Scholar in 2017 and began her post-secondary studies in 2018 at York University. Aleria is currently majoring in Theatre Studies, with a minor in Indigenous Studies, and is a member of her university’s international honour society. Aleria is a mix of Indigenous cultures and identities, as she is Haudenosaunee and Teme-Augama Anishnabai on her mother’s side, and Dene Tha, Cree, and Metis on her father’s side. She is extremely devoted to both her cultures and her people and works to be involved in her community in any way she can.
Aleria has been involved in various forms of the arts from a very young age. Growing up, she was actively involved in competitive dance, competing across the US and Ontario. She loved public speaking and participated in a number of speech competitions in elementary and high school. She also began writing when she was 11 years old, writing various short stories and small plays. This love for writing continued into her teens, and in early 2020, she was successful in self-publishing her first book of poetry. Aleria’s greatest passion is within theatre, where she is able to combine her love of writing and her love of the stage.
Aleria has always been a passionate activist for many humanitarian causes, using her voice to amplify those who need it. Her love for performance and passion for activism is what created her love for pageants. Pageants have given Aleria a platform to speak on her passions and raise awareness for causes close to her heart. She has held the titles of Miss Teen Six Nations 2013 and Miss Teenage Ontario 2018, and is currently Miss Six Nations, a role that has her serving as a cultural ambassador for her reserve.
Throughout her life, Aleria has had to overcome personal hardships relating to mental illness. After surviving a suicide attempt at 17, and witnessing the impact suicide and mental illness had on her reserve, she decided she wanted to make a change. In 2018, she wrote and directed her own play entitled And She Split the Sky in Two, which told the story of a teenage girl grieving the suicide of her older sister. The play received many awards and accolades, and was featured in a news segment on CBC Indigenous. This experience allowed Aleria to realize that she had a voice, and could use it in ways that make people listen.
In spring 2019, Aleria founded RAY of Hope (Remembering Aboriginal Youth), the Six Nations youth suicide prevention committee, in memory of Six Nations youth lost to suicide. RAY of Hope is a by-youth-for-youth organization with a goal of spreading a message of hope, life, and wellness through community, culture, language, and education. Today, Aleria acts as the director of the committee as they continue to grow and become more involved in the community. Aleria is open about her experiences with suicide and mental illness, as she believes the more we talk about it the more it lessens the stigma. She views her own experience not as a battle, but as a gift that has aided her in growing, learning, and ultimately, helping others.