Whether we’re talking to youth about violence prevention or climate change, BYTE facilitators usually walk out of workshops hoping that the participants have learned something. But what does it look like when BYTE facilitators learn just as much—if not more—than the participants?

 

That’s what happened during BYTE’s trip to Old Crow two weeks ago. Natalie, Angela and myself travelled to Old Crow to work with the Grade 7-9 class to make a video component for the This Is Our Arctic photography exhibit. It was my first visit to Old Crow, and I hoped that the youth—Maddy, Jocelyn, Percilla, and Candace—would learn about climate change and interview skills in order to make a movie about how climate change is affecting their community.

 

In the end, the girls might have taught us more than we taught them. We did a big brainstorm session about what Gwitchin people do out on the land, and they told us all about the fish, berries, skins and meat that they harvest from the land. We asked them what they thought would happen if the caribou and salmon didn’t return to Old Crow, and they told us how their family and community would be affected.

 

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Jocelyn drawing an image of what Gwitchin people do out on the land

 

Then, the girls thought up questions to ask their elders about how the land is changing and why it’s important. Through their conversations with Danny Kassi and Joseph Kaye, we learned that the land around Old Crow has changed dramatically in the past few years, and that future of the Gwitchin people is tied to the land and to young people like the ones we worked with.

 

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Percilla and Candace interviewing Joseph on how things have changed over the years.

 

As well as getting to know the girls and having lots of fun doing this project, I also learned that:

  • The community of Old Crow is incredibly generous and welcoming, and it’s not uncommon for people to offer tea and caribou meat to visitors
  • If anyone tells you that youth are unengaged and uninterested in the world around them, they’re probably wrong!
  • Facilitation isn’t just about introducing ideas to youth; it’s also about learning new things yourself

 

Thanks to Maddy, Jocelyn, Percilla and Candace for teaching us about their land and their community. We’re so excited for the next time we get to visit Old Crow, and to see the film that comes out of the stories they, and the rest of their community, shared with us during our visit.

 

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Stay tuned for more news on how This Is Our Arctic is evolving, and where it will be heading next!