Indigenous youth learn about culture, leadership in Thunder Bay, Ont.

About 120 youth from across Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory learned about culture, leadership, and even opera during the three-day NAN Youth Gathering in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“The theme is hope,” Randall Crow, a member of NAN’s Oshkaatisak (All Young People’s) Council, and one of the gathering’s organizers, said. “It’s important to get the youth engaged.”

“Oftentimes, youth are pushed aside, so it’s good to get them involved just in certain activities, and come out to a city like this to get to meet other people throughout the NAN territory.”

The weekend-long gathering featured a number of breakout sessions for attendees. In those, they learned about cultural teachings, leadership, personal growth and health expression, NAN said.

‘Inspired to be hopeful’

“I was really excited to sign up,” said Ashley Bach of Mishkeegogamang First Nation, adding she’s taken workshops on clan teachings, medicines and drum-making.

“I think it’s been a really positive event,” she added. “There’s a lot of happy people here, a lot of people I can see being inspired to be hopeful.”

Russell Kakekagumick, 15, of Keewaywin said he’s learned “hope is a powerful thing” over the course of the gathering, which took place at the Nor’Wester hotel.

“I enjoyed painting,” he said. “I enjoyed talking to other people, the elders too.”

Learning about opera

For Peyton Rae of North Spirit Lake, the weekend’s big standout was a workshop about opera.

“It was so fun,” he said of the opera workshop. “I used to rap my own music, but I never did opera.”

“I did sing before, and [the instructor] taught me a different way of singing, and now I can actually do better.”

Rae said the workshops have been valuable.

“All these older people know about tradition, so they’re … trying to teach us it,” he said. “I would like to learn.”


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