The Wabun Youth Gathering for Senior youth was held at the Elk Lake Ecolodge in Elk Lake, Ontario from August 13 to 17 to bring older youth from the Wabun Tribal Council area to socialize, learn about culture and language and take part in a series of educational workshops. The event, currently in its twelfth year featured youth ages 14 to 19 from Wabun First Nations in northeastern Ontario.
“This was a very exciting week for all of us as there was a mix of three different types of education that we provided for our youth. It is so special to see these young men and women every year and to watch them become strong individuals. For we as adults, it feels good to help these youth in building their knowledge and experience but also in fostering their self confidence and sense of well being. These young people are amazing and it is a pleasure to see their growth year after year,” said Faye Naveau, Regional Crisis Coordinator for Wabun Health Services.
Three different workshop events were rotated throughout the week to provide youth with a variety of activities. A series of personal wellness, drug abuse awareness and healing strategies were provided by a Community Wellness Development Team (CWDT). This team included facilitators Ron Kanutski, Team Member; Crystal Morrison, Consultant / Youth Role Model and Janey Puurula, Team Coordinator. CWDT, under Dilico Anishinabek Family Care based in Thunder Bay, is an education and support program for northern First Nations to deal with opiate drug abuse issues. Cody McGregor, of Whitefish River First Nation, Manitoulin Island provided a series of Native language sessions for youth. McGregor, who is a trained Native language teacher, also produced original musical performances and as well was DJ for evening entertainment and dances. Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, of Sweetgrass First Nation, Saskatchewan, introduced youth to traditional games and activities. Oksasikewiyin, who is a traditional knowledge keeper and teacher, has accumulated knowledge of over a hundred indigenous historic games.
Alicia Topp, for the Tobacco Wise program, which is part of the Cancer Care Ontario’s Aboriginal Tobacco Program provided an afternoon informational session on smoking cessation.
Elder Daisy Naveau, of Mattagami First Nation, assisted organizers by acting as chaperon, support worker and by leading in daily ceremonies.
“I felt good in seeing our young people learning about our past and especially our language. Our youth need to remember our past and where we come from. There was good feeling here and a positive spirit and that is exactly what our young people need,” said Elder Naveau.
Brooke Collins, a 16 year old youth participant from Matachewan First Nation took part in many traditional games during the event.
“One of my favourite activities this week was in learning about the traditional games from Lamarr as he made everything fun and super interesting. It was also special for me to learn about our traditional language from Cody also. I’m just thankful to Wabun and all the organizers for giving us these opportunities every year to learn, to make new friends and create new memories with everyone,” said Collins.
The planning and organization of the gathering involved many people. Chaperons included Sue Alton, Matachewan FN; Kevin Saunders, Brunswick House FN; Cindy McKay, Mattagami FN; Jessica Vaillancourt, Mattagami FN and Theresa Laffrenier, Beaverhouse FN.
“We are very thankful to our Elder Daisy Naveau and to all our chaperons who take time from their busy lives to look after our youth at this annual event. We would not be able to accomplish this without the help of so many people from our leadership, our office, our communities and the families of the youth participants. Most of all, we are grateful to the youth for their participation and enthusiasm year after year. This gathering is the result of support and encouragement from all of our Wabun Chiefs and our Executive Director Jason Batise,” said Jean Lemieux, Wabun Health Director.
The senior youth also enjoyed social events and free time to renew old friendships and foster new ones. Traditional singing and drumming was also a highlight that was led by organizer Faye Naveau, Debbie Proulx-Buffalo, Mental Wellness Team Worker for Wabun Health; Crystal Morrison and youth singers: Kaytlyn Julien, Taylor McMillen, Rianna Alberta, Dreyden Saunders and Ethaniel Wesley.
This event was made possible through the vision and dream of Wabun Elder Thomas Saunders of Brunswick House First Nation who lobbied for a youth gathering. Sadly, he passed on before his dream came to be but his legacy lives on.
Wabun Tribal Council is a regional territorial organization which represents the six First Nation communities of Beaverhouse, Brunswick House, Chapleau Ojibwe, Flying Post, Matachewan and Mattagami in Northeastern Ontario and it is directed by its respective Chiefs.