Chief Liard McMillan has a plan for Watson Lake’s troubled youth.
As early as next week, he hopes to see the launch of a new back-to-the-land program where young people will learn from elders how do things in the bush like build a cabin and tend to marten traps.
It’s a project that’s being touted by chief and council as an antidote to the community’s endemic drug and alcohol problems.
The workshops will be funded by Silvercorp Metals, a Chinese-Canadian silver producer that has an advanced exploration project at its Silvertip project in B.C., near the Yukon border.
The funds are available thanks to a recently-signed Kaska collaboration agreement. It ensures that Yukon’s Kaska and their relatives in B.C. “share the benefits” when natural resources are exploited on their traditional territory, said McMillan.
He wouldn’t disclose how much the fund is worth. “I don’t want a bunch of people knocking on our door with extra-high expectations,” said McMillan.
Suffice to say it’s small enough he doesn’t want to hire a co-ordinator for fear that could eat up most of the money in one year.
To stretch the money out, McMillan hopes to persuade the elders to offer their time for free. But he concedes that isn’t easy.
Volunteerism in Watson Lake is on the wane, said McMillan. “I’m not saying it’s completely vanished. But it’s certainly on life support.”
Widespread dependence on social assistance hasn’t helped, he said. This “tends to foster a culture of entitlement,” said McMillan.
The chief hopes to turn this around by connecting today’s generation with the old ways.
“It’s about the survival of our culture and heritage,” he said.
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