One of the biggest First Nation youth gatherings in Yukon’s history will be held next week.
Over 100 youth, speakers and facilitators from around the territory and northern British Columbia will converge at Brooks Brook near Teslin from Aug. 7 to 10 for Our Voices: Yukon First Nations Emerging Leaders Gathering.
The three-day gathering will feature workshops, activities and games designed to help youth ages 14 to 30 develop leadership skills and gain a better understanding of healthy living and community building.
The event is being hosted by the Yukon Indigenous Emerging Leaders.
Nineteen-year-old Shaheen Baker, from Pelly Crossing, was so excited about attending she also rounded up about 10 of her friends.
“I understand it’s a big event because my cousin and other friends around the Yukon have been talking about it,” she said.
“It’s important to get the youth together, it’s very empowering. I’m really looking forward to the elder storytelling too.”
After the event, she hopes to go back to her community with a renewed optimism on life and would like to see more youth gatherings taking place, she said.
Kluane Adamek, the event’s co-chair, said planning started after organizers identified a deep need for young people to feel connected and supported that wasn’t being fulfilled in the territory.
“When a group of us began teleconferencing and talking about bringing people together, we recognized we had all lost young people in our communities,” she said.
“We wanted to look at what we could do to support young people and how we could bring them together. This is one of the first huge gatherings for Yukon’s First Nations youth.”
One of the priorities for the organizers was to focus on the connection to the land in whatever they were planning, which is why they decided to have the event near Teslin Lake.
Inspired by a similar gathering held in the Northwest Territories, the organizers set out to find former leaders and invite them to share their experiences in self-government and land claims.
Some of the special guests include Wab Kinew, Jeff Copnance, Victoria Fred, Mikah Fox and Andy Niemen.
“It’s a great opportunity for young people to learn and hear from these people,” Adamek said.
“The driving energy behind all this is that young people will come and see they can put something together like this in their own community. It’ll help them realize they can become actively involved in a number of ways.”
Adamek, a member of the Kluane First Nation and a Jane Glassco Northern Fellow, is using the gathering as part of her research on youth engagement and public policy. “There is a notion that these youth are the leaders of tomorrow but really you see a lot of them becoming leaders in their communities right now,” she said.
“It’s really important, and part of continuing the legacy of First Nations people, that the focus is on them being leaders right now.”
Participant registration closes today, and the group is still looking for sponsors. Visit the event’s page on Facebook for details.
Contact Myles Dolphin at firstname.lastname@example.org