By: Jolene Waugh
This past weekend was the National Association of Friendship Centres Gathering and Whitehorse was lucky enough to be the host. As a BYTE employee I was able to attend and listen in on all the amazing Aboriginal youth from across Canada. I have to say I was overwhelmed by all the amazing youth I met. I don’t want to say I didn’t expect there to be so many amazing youth, but I truly was overwhelmed by the fact they were so much more impressive than I had ever expected. There are so many Aboriginal youth in our country who care immensely about First Nations culture, voice and keeping our traditions alive.
Day 1 Friday the 27th
Opening ceremonies were held at the Yukon Inn. Guest speakers came from across Canada including Delilah Pallai – Exectuive Director, Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, Kody Taylor-Aboriginal Youth Council President, Vera Pawis-Tabobunding-National Association of Friendship Centres President and a performance by Ta’an Kwachan Dancers. Following the opening ceremony the group hopped on a bus and headed to Champagne and Aishihik First Nations territory where we were introduced to their land and had an amazing traditional dinner.
Day 2 Saturday the 28th
Once again we had an opening ceremony, this time Jeffery Cyr, the Executive Director from the National Association of Friendship Centres and Todd Solomon from the Kids Help Phone spoke to us. Jeff welcomed us and reiterated the importance of youth in our country. Todd spoke to us like we were on a football team and we were one touch-down away from winning the super bowl. He told the youth that there is so much in this world for them to do, and that they were already on their way to doing it. He spoke with inspiration and trust, knowing the youth in the room had what it took to do everything they desired.
The groups all broke off and joined whatever workshop they were interested in. I took this opportunity to join Cultural Teaching by local Elder Randall Tetlichi, who is the resident Elder at the Yukon College and is available 24/7. Listening to Randall speak is unexplainable, he spoke to us like he was talking one-on-one. He made us look at ourselves and think about who we are, what we want, what we are capable of, and how we treat one another. The feeling that I got from Randall was that life is what I make of it, and that I need to remember that I am not the only person on this earth to take care of myself or the people around me.
Once the workshops were finished for the day, the group headed over to Rotary Peace Park for the Annual Volleyball Tournament & BBQ.
The weekend was filled with encouragement and passion. I will take the knowledge that I have gained from the weekend and pass it on to current and future friends and colleagues. The Aboriginal Youth Council as well as the guest speakers gave me the courage to identify my strengths and weaknesses and stride.