Hey friends! Sorry for the long delay since our last post – we’ve been suuuuuuper busy here at the office planning our 5th annual Leaders in Training (LIT) Conference!! For three days last weekend, we hosted 21 young leaders from 9 different communities out at Jackson Lake and we could never have guessed how much awesomeness would happen! For the first time in conference history, the weekend was a full-on sleepover, and there was so much to be gained from the extra time this gave all of us to connect with youth from other communities and form strong friendships (not to mention Frozen Capture the Flag, hand games, drum-making, board games, and jam sessions!) Besides all the fun and games though, we also had a number of workshops to keep us inspired throughout the weekend!
The conference theme this year was Making Our Voices Heard. We started the day by discussing the challenges we see in our communities, recognizing we can’t create change until we give space to and name those challenges. This conversation would guide us for the weekend and also led us into a talk with Elder Phil Gatensby. Phil has supported our conference for a couple years now and he reminded our group that they are already leaders and about the importance of taking ourselves seriously but not too seriously.
After an intense morning it was time to get moving! Youth split into two groups and cycled through two sessions – one with Lee Randall from Poundfit Yukon that is fun and challenging and preeeeeetty ridiculous and looks a little something like this – and the other with Doronn Fox and the 14 Nations Handgames Society, who were there to teach us all about handgames! There were a bunch of pros in our group and it was awesome seeing everyone get into drumming and playing – I’m still trying to figure out all those hand signals! Handgames really turned in to a highlight of the conference and each night, youth organized their own games and played for hours!
With a health break under our belts, we all gathered back together to hear from Bobbi-Rose Koe and Dana Tizya-Tramm. They brought a slideshow about their time on the Peel River Watershed and talked about how and why they started Youth of the Peel. We were extremely honoured to have them present to us and we are really inspired by them and their for youth, by youth program that gets young people out on the land, promotes sustainable opportunities and raises awareness about the Peel River Watershed (the case about the Peel is in Supreme Court right now!) With all the physical and mental exercise, everyone was ready for dinner and a night of games!
Dana Tizya-Tramm kicked things off, speaking to the group candidly about some of his tough experiences growing up as a youth in the territory and how that has shaped where he is today. Dana challenged our group to think about our biases and perceptions and reminded us that we are endless beings full of power and ideas! We were all very touched by his words.
Next up, we had a presentation from We Matter, a national suicide-prevention campaign. The founders sent a video message about why they started their campaign and about spreading messages of hope and resilience to young people everywhere. This led us in to our first real creative break of the weekend – youth had time to create artwork, write poems or just sit and chat about mental wellness, hope and resilience in their communities.
With fresh air in our lungs after a walk on the land with Doronn Fox, the group came back together to do a community mapping exercise. This is a BYTE (or maybe more accurately a Shelby) favourite! Community Mapping is a time to sit down and reflect about what we love about the communities we come from and also to think about a vision for the future. We heard some great things about participants’ favourite places to go in their communities (we can’t wait to check out the Ridge next time we visit Carmacks) and also got a chance to see their ideas for the future (paintball, more job opportunities for youth, more handgames!)
To cap off day two, we had a feast and special guests! Grey and Tiffany of the Juno Award-nominated band Quantum Tangle came out to Jackson Lake on their free night to spend time with our group – from teaching us the basics of throat singing to stunning the room with “The Amautalik” to sharing more about how they as young Indigenous folks have been able to combine their art with their activism, we could not have asked for a better way to cap off the night (did we mention that they’re nominated for a Juno??) Thanks to Yukon Arts Centre for making this happen, as it was definitely a highlight for everyone!
Our last morning was jam-packed! After breakfast we spent some time together talking about the 5 Pillars of Change and creating our own Change Equations. The biggest takeaway from this was seeing everyone’s ideas for using their passions and talents to create change in their communities. From something seemingly as simple as spending more time by the fire with grandparents to organizing fundraisers for animal safety, what was so clear is that these young people are already change-makers!
For our last session of the conference, we welcomed Phil Gatensby back into our circle for a brushing ceremony. With a huge bundle of balsam wood Phil had gathered, we took turns standing on the branches and having the group brush us with the branches to get rid of our negative energy. Then we burned the branches in the fire and watched as the thick yellow smoke floated away. This was a perfect way to end the conference – we have to take care of ourselves before we can change the world!
A week later we are still reeling from the weekend! We feel so energized from meeting everyone and can’t wait for the chance to visit you in the communities you each spoke so fondly of!
A big gunalchéesh to everyone who made the weekend happen and come together including our sponsors Northern Council for Global Cooperation, Arctic Institute for Community Based Research and Tides Canada! We’d also like to thank the Department of the Environment, Mercer Construction and Kwanlin Dun First Nation for helping to keep us warm, Health and Social Services for helping us offer Trauma Training to our chaperones, Wykes Independent Grocer for a hot, healthy breakfast, RPAY for healthy snacks and PoundFit,, Yukon Apparel for discounted t-shirts, the Youth Directorate for their ongoing support, Yukon Arts Centre for bringing us Quantum Tangle, Greyson and Tiffany for their music and all the amazing chaperones for travelling with youth to be there! Shoutout to Old Crow, Fort McPherson, Haines Junction, Carmacks, Dawson City, Carcross, Watson Lake and Whitehorse for coming out and making the long trek!) Finally, massive thank you to our LIT Conference Coordinator Alexie Merk for being such a boss! We couldn’t have pulled this off without her!