TikTok has exploded in popularity across the globe during the pandemic. For Morgan Tsetta, the social media app is more than just a place to post fun videos.
The young Yellowknives Dene woman has been using her platform to raise awareness about Giant Mine’s long-lasting impacts on her community and the First Nation’s petition calling on the federal government for an apology, compensation, and a role in remediation of the site.
“For me, it means recognition. It’s a chance for proper reconciliation from the federal and territorial governments,” Tsetta said of why the issue is important to her. “We are finally being given the platform to raise awareness and speak up about the poisoning of our land.”
The 26-year-old filmmaker and photographer – who splits her time between Yellowknife and Vancouver, where she attends film school – started posting to TikTok during the initial Covid-19 lockdown. She started with cat videos but quickly found “Native TikTok” and says things “snowballed from there.”
As she began posting videos about Giant Mine – the toxic former gold mine on the doorstep of Yellowknife and Yellowknives Dene First Nation communities – Tsetta’s follower count grew. So did the number of signatures on the First Nation’s petition. (Her account’s role in supporting the position was first reported by My True North Now.)
“It was really weird to see the correlation between some of my analytics to the petition signatures,” Tsetta said. Sometimes, she refreshed the petition list more than once an hour.
“It was very overwhelming,” she said, “but I was super excited about the fact that people were starting to pay attention to this.”
While Tsetta aimed to help the petition reach 500 signatures, 32,192 people had signed – from every province and territory in Canada – by the time it closed on March 7. Michael McLeod, the NWT’s Liberal MP, formally presented the petition in Parliament this week.
Tsetta’s TikTok account now has 34,500 followers.
Dettah Chief Edward Sangris publicly thanked Tsetta for raising awareness about the petition earlier this month as the First Nation announced it is one step closer to negotiating an agreement with the Canadian government.
“It feels amazing. I’m honestly so proud to have played even a small part in spreading this issue to more Canadians,” Tsetta said. “This is a humanitarian issue and more people need to be aware so we can hold the federal government accountable in its response.”
In December, the Yellowknives Dene held a demonstration on the site of the former mine and launched a website titled “Giant Mine Monster” detailing the long-lasting environmental, cultural and social impacts of the mine.
Tsetta said she will now work with the First Nation in a more formal capacity to continue raising awareness about Giant Mine’s toxic legacy. She said she will keep her TikTok followers updated on the status of the petition.