Josiah Jakesta, at 17 years old, has the wisdom, patience and soul of someone much older. Hailing from the Tahltan and Kaska nations, Josiah has spent most of his life dividing time between Watson Lake, Whitehorse and Dease Lake. He spends his summers on his family property in Telegraph Creek, British Columbia where he works hauling fish and helping his mom build a cabin.

We caught up with Josiah several months ago at the 3 Nations, 1 Voice Gathering. The Gathering, put on by Our Voices brought youth from Tahltan, Kaska and Tlingit Nations together for three days of cultural celebration. Youth had the chance to participate in a number of workshops ranging from drum making to antler etching to beading and finding your inner trickster! For Josiah, an artist himself, this gathering was a great chance to connect with friends and practice some new art forms.

Josiah first got in to art at young age; “In elementary school, I was taking a First Nations language class and they had a carving program. I remember working on a piece of oak wood. We made designs with pencil and later we got the design put on wood. We used carving tools to create our designs.” Since then, Josiah describes that art has continued to influence his life. “It is a form of expressing myself, how I’m feeling,” Jakesta says.

Today, you can find Josiah working at the Youth of Today Society doing artistic jobs like the mural project and working on the Shakat Journal. He loves to focus his art on “anything Indigenous,” from painting, drawing and sketching to graphic design, antler etching, jewelry making and carving, Josiah is exploring and honing his skills in a number of diverse art forms. He credits his aunties and uncles for mentoring him in the arts and is taking every opportunity he gets to practice these skills.

In addition to chatting about his passion for art, Josiah also opened up to us about his fight with leukemia. Diagnosed at 3 years old, he has had a clean bill of health since 2010! Living with and beating leukemia has given Josiah the wisdom to live life with passion and intent and without ego. With wisdom beyond his years, he talks about the importance of learning his history, language and culture and about the value of learning things outside of the school system.

For now, Josiah plans to take advantage of the youth leadership opportunities coming his way, including a recent trip to Sudbury for Canadian Roots Exchange’s National Youth Reconciliation Conference, and to stay in good shape for fishing season by walking the Black Street stairs everyday. He is going to keep working on his art portfolio and when he’s ready he hopes to attend the Freda Deising School of Northwest Coast Art.

Josiah doesn’t have art for sale yet but we’ll be the first to let you know when and where you can support this young artist!