A born and raised Okotokian and his journey of self-discovery are the subject of an award-winning short documentary.
Piita Aapasskaan tells the story of Kyle Young Pine (Agapi) of the Kainai First Nations Blood Tribe, his struggles with generational trauma and addiction, and the passions that transformed his life.
The TELUS originals film is directed by a childhood friend of Young Pine's, Brock Davis Mitchell, and was shown at several festivals before premiering on YouTube in late December.
The film's title shares Young Pine's Blackfoot name, which means Eagle Fancy Dancer.
As is shown in the film, Young Pine's Blackfoot identity wasn't always something he took pride in.
He recalls a time growing up when his culture was only ever used against him.
"If I was to have an altercation with another student at my young age, it's easy for them to pull the race card and I had nothing to throw back at them. I didn't even know what the word 'racism' was. I was experiencing it before I understood what it was. My brother and I were the only two indigenous kids at our school for a long time. At that age, you kind of just want to fit in. When you stick out, you carry that with you."
It was something Kyle had to internalize, as he felt unable to talk to his mother about how his heritage was being turned against him and built up resentment toward his culture in the process.
His parents separated when he was young, and in the documentary, he describes the trauma both his parents carried with them, as well as the struggles with addiction he witnessed growing up.
Young Pine describes an "aha" moment when he first discovered skateboarding, something that instantly changed his life and is still a big part of it.
"I have 'skate or die' tattooed across my chest. People who don't skateboard don't understand skateboarding... I'd get home from school and see my skateboard and it was probably the only thing that was on my mind. Every skateboarder who would hear a comment like that would be like 'exactly!'"
In the film, he also speaks of his own experiences with hard drugs after graduating high school, and his subsequent introduction to Fancy Feather Dancing.
He recalls attending a powwow with his best friend and feeling an instant pull.
"I asked him 'what is this?' He just said 'fancy.' He didn't say 'this is Fancy War Dancing,' there was just that one word. I was like 'I need to get a hold of someone to figure this out.'"
Young Pine describes his entrance into the world of Fancy Feather as an entry into a new way of life.
His dancing has taken him across North America and through high-level competition to local schools, often joined by his seven-year-old son Phoenix.
As for who he would most want the film to make an impact on, Young Pine hopes it guides other young people to the kind of harmony he's found in skateboarding and Fancy Feather.
"White, black, native, Asian, Indian, anyone of any background, if they can see this and be like "I'm so proud to be where I'm from,' and to understand that at a young age, that's what I hope to see."
Young Pine just passed 9 years of sobriety and works with Recovery Coaches of Alberta to help aid others in their recovery journeys at no cost.
He describes the freedom he's found in skateboarding and dancing, which was only possible once he stopped grasping for control over his life.
"If you sort of let life unfold as it should, play the ball as it lies, live life on life's terms, life does miraculous things for a person. The humility of knowing that kind of stuff, to be afraid but to continue to walk into the storm, has done so much for me personally. I don't seek comfort anymore, I look at resistance and I try to embrace it as best I can, because some of the hardest things in my life I've had to overcome have turned me into the person I am today. I've gained, I've lost, but I've also learned so much."
"The best quote that I ever heard was from Jim Rohn and he said, 'if you work hard at your job, you can earn a living, but if you work hard on yourself, you can gain a fortune.' If that's not true of my life, I don't know what is."
Young Pine extends thanks to Dan Agapi, Phoenix Young Pine, Ed Balcerzak, Brock Mitchell, Laura O'Grady, Jenny Steele, Braden Dereniwski, Snapshot Studios, Deluxe Design Group, and Telus.