Last week, I spoke with many of the youth from around the North who participated in the Leaders in Training workshop in Inuvik.
When I asked them what part of the workshop was most beneficial to them, many of them cited the on-the-land session with elders at Gwich’in Territorial Park.
Conference coordinator Alyssa Carpenter described the idyllic scene at the park to me. She said they set up tent frames, built fires, and boiled tea while elders like Shirley Kisoun, Sharon Firth, Sarah Jerome and Lillian Elias shared stories.
The youth also had an opportunity to share with each other and the elders how they like to keep their culture and traditions alive in their own way. They also had free time to walk trails and play in the snow.
While they only spent one afternoon at the park during the conference, it was certainly a highlight for the youth.
One participant told me she feels the tradition of going out on the land is getting lost among her generation, and she’s glad to have any opportunity to go out and practise the tradition.
Going out on the land is an atypical session to see on a conference schedule, but it is an important one.
Another participant told me that in their community, there aren’t many opportunities to go out on the land if your family doesn’t take you, so having the chance to go with other groups or organizations is important to them.
In Inuvik, we are lucky – there are many places to access on-the-land programming, such as East Three Secondary School, Children First Centre and Project Jewel, to name a few.
Hearing from these youth about how much they took away from the session at the park was illuminating as to how important these programs are.
I hope community organizations will continue to offer on-the-land programming options as they are beneficial and valued by participants, especially youth.