About Standing Bear



Standing Bear is a youth leadership program developed by ISWO, designed to strengthen individual and community wellness by empowering and supporting Indigenous youth in making positive changes. Standing Bear provides a culturally relevant framework for the development of confidence, purpose, identity, and support networks.


A standing bear represents strength and courage in the face of a challenge or adversity. In the case of the Youth Leadership Program, it is representative of youth identifying the need to stand up, stand tall and represent Indigenous ways of knowing, learning, and doing.


In Indigenous culture, it is generally accepted that a holistic way of knowing, learning, and being must begin with a strong mind. While Western cultural notions may conceptualize the idea of ‘strong minds’ as simply being reflective of mental health, Indigenous peoples understand that leadership begins with one’s self. Positive growth and action in one’s self results in a holistic approach that impacts mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness for individuals and the broader community.


Given that sport and recreation are powerful tools for building capacity, developing skills and enhancing unity, they are catalysts and a strong foundation for leadership and wellness. ISWO is uniquely positioned and honoured to initiate and support a youth-led, province-wide leadership development program as one of the key areas in Ontario’s journey of reconciliation. This project is reflective of the Government of Ontario’s commitment to working with Indigenous Peoples and communities and taking action for reconciliation in an effort to create a better future for everyone in the province. The project was initiated with the intent of:

  • Engaging Indigenous youth and communities, Indigenous leaders, government at all levels, educators, businesses, non-profits, and non-Indigenous peoples in collectively defining issues and solutions regarding youth leadership.
  • Developing a Youth Leadership Program based on research and consultations with Indigenous youth.
  • Delivering youth-focused resources through project collaboration and partnerships


The Standing Bear program is delivered with one core and six optional streams of learning opportunities:


  • Creative Arts
  • Community Activism
  • Cultural Education
  • Exploring Job and Life Skills
  • Health and Wellness
  • Sport and Recreation

Interested in learning more about the Standing Bear Program?

If you’re a youth or a parent, check out the Standing Bear Program Guide to get an idea of the activities required for each stream.

As a youth (between the ages of 14-24) you can also register on the My ISWO Portal at my.iswo.ca to begin your journey!

Complete the activities at your own pace, based on your interests and earn certificates and rewards for every stage completed.

If you’re a facilitator, teacher, youth leader or someone who is looking to deliver Standing Bear, you can download the Standing Bear Facilitators Guide to help you plan your program.

You can also create an account on the Standing Bear ‘Learning Den’ platform at learningden.iswo.ca.

The Learning Den is a tool to support the delivery of Standing Bear. Once you create an account, you can invite youth to join via email, assign work, create schedules and lesson plans and assign credits to youth. You can also share meeting details (i.e., zoom, google meet, etc.) and links to resources (i.e., pdf documents, YouTube videos, articles, etc.).


For more information and support for delivering a Standing Bear program, get in touch with our Standing Bear team who can support you along the way. Send an email to standingbear@iswo.ca with your questions and a team member will be happy to guide you along the journey.


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    For more information about Standing Bear’s programs, contact Danielle Johnson at Danielle.Johnson@iswo.ca or the regional coordinator nearest to you.