NCFNG Delivers a Culture in Action Youth Exchange
For three weeks in July, 26 young people from the Squamish, Nisga’a and Ktunaxa Nations participated in NCFNG's Culture in Action Youth Exchange.
The two-part exchange started with a week touring Nisga’a territory in northern BC and concluded with participants traveling across British Columbia to the territories of the Ktunaxa Nation located in southeastern BC.
“Supporting the younger generation in reconnecting to their Nation’s history, identity and spirituality will inevitably lead to the creation of a new memory in the minds of our children”, states Satsan (Herb George), President, National Centre for First Nations Governance.
The young participants connected with traditional territory and experienced the differences in land, governance and culture.
“First Nations youth benefit greatly from opportunities such as this” commented Squamish youth, Janice Campbell. Nisga’a participant Stephanie Johnson acknowledged that, “There were different languages, different types of animals, and even different ways of fishing. The dry terrain is also quite different in Cranbrook than the green forests in the Nass Valley.”
In Nisga’a territory, hereditary Chief Joe Gosnell welcomed the youth. “I hope that your brief stay will be beneficial to you and that you will bring back home something positive to your people”, shared the respected Chief.
Self-governance was an underlying theme throughout the exchange. Sessions in the Nisga’a Lisims Government’s legislature and the Ktunaxa Nations AGM allowed the participants first hand experience to witness the different approaches to governance. Youth engagement and leadership development are services that NCFNG provides to assist nations in their re-building efforts. The Culture in Action Youth Exchange incorporated these services into the delivery of its program.
The purpose of this exchange was to promote leadership development among the youth by providing an opportunity to network with youth, leadership and elders and to expose them to culture and governance of the Squamish, Nisga’a and Ktunaxa Nations. NCFNG and the three participating Nations accomplished this with cultural and governance activities on the territories.
Volunteers from the exchange presented the findings from the Ktunaxa Youth Forum to the audience at the Ktunaxa AGM where a resolution was passed to support the implementation of “what is needed to support youth in the community” as identified by 60 youth that participated at the forum.
The participants also had the opportunity to engage in cultural activities such as singing, dancing, story telling, lahal (bone games), a powwow, mock Nisga’a feast, pine needle basketry, beading, smoking of fish and deer meat, making bannock and crab fishing. In addition, the youth competed in a ‘Culture in Action’ photo contest, won by Stephanie Williams, Ktunaxa Nation, Corey Joseph, Squamish Nation and Stephanie Johnson, Nisga’a Nation.
This program was possible with the funding from the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges Canada (SEVEC) and the New Relationship Trust (NRT). In 2009, the NCFNG is coordinating a Culture in Action Youth Exchange in its Atlantic Region.
Witnessing youth seizing opportunities to share their cultures and add to their repertoire of leadership skills for the future of their respective Nations is a rare and precious opportunity. NCFNG staff felt privileged to have experienced this event both as participants and coordinators.