A young woman from Hay River has been elected the national representative for youth on the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Jaylene Delorme-Buggins was elected to the position at the organization’s annual general assembly in Edmonton on July 15.
“I am the first person in the North to be the national youth rep,” she noted.
The 24-year-old was acclaimed the northern youth representative for the NWT and Yukon at the national conference, before winning election as national representative against a young person from Quebec.
It was an emotional moment for Delorme-Buggins.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I called my dad and I called my mom, and I told them right away. And then I took a minute and I kind of cried, but moreso because of my sister that I lost. I kind of felt a little guilty. I wish she was here to see this.”
Delorme-Buggins is quite open in discussing her own battles with mental health issues and addictions, and that she lost a sister to a drug overdose.
“She’d be so proud of me, but at the same time I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t lose my sister,” she said. “I don’t think I would have been pushed to really change my life and really do something for myself and push myself to go farther because my sister was always the one who was like, ‘You could do it. You deserve the best. You’re smart. There’s no reason you should be held back and living a life of addictions.’ I kind of really felt guilty because I really wanted her there.”
Her sister, who was a resident of Yellowknife, died while in Edmonton.
Delorme-Buggins said it was “a struggle and a half” to get herself out of addictions and deal with mental health issues.
“But I worked really hard and pushed myself to get myself to where I am today,” she said.
Delorme-Buggins, who is a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, said she always wanted to be a voice for youth and it is amazing to be in a position to bring awareness to issues affecting those 30 years of age and under.
She will serve for one year as national youth representative with the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Delorme-Buggins plans to focus on a number of issues – addictions, mental health, impacts of residential schools, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“There are a lot of issues I want to create more awareness for if I can,” she said. “Currently it’s still a learning process.”
She also wants to create more awareness for the LGBTQ community.
“I personally don’t identify as part of the community, but I’m in full support,” she noted. “I have a lot of friends and family members that are part of the community.”
Delorme-Buggins, who was born in Alberta and raised in the NWT, said she will now have to become familiar with issues right across Canada.
“I’m definitely learning a lot and I can’t wait to learn more and hopefully maybe see more of the country in the future to actually see the diversity and the different communities and provinces across Canada,” she said.
In Hay River, Delorme-Buggins volunteers as the youth co-ordinator at Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre, specifically to spearhead the creation of a youth council.
She had been attending college for upgrading with a plan to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in child and youth care.
“With everything that’s been going on, I’ve decided to take this year off school and really focus on a lot of the things that I’m doing,” she said, pointing to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.