A five-day youth gathering will take place in Ulukhaktok this July, giving young people across the Beaufort Delta a chance to connect with the land, each other, and themselves.
The gathering – set for July 25 to 30 – is organized by the Western Arctic Youth Collective (WAYC), a MakeWay project that aims to create programming for youth across the region. The group received $97,000 through this year’s Arctic Inspiration Prize.
Programs so far include a drum-making workshop, winter trapping camp, virtual book club, and online wellness check-ins.
Megan Lennie, WAYC’s land-based coordinator, said residents wanted more access to programming.
Alyssa Carpenter, a founding member and project director for WAYC, said programming in smaller NWT communities could be hard to find.
“The goal was to always host a gathering in … remote and isolated communities that normally don’t get those opportunities,” Carpenter said. “When we think of the pandemic and being isolated and the challenges of coming together, I think it’s a good reminder that you need those spaces as much as everybody else.
“We want to give that to them, and we want to go to a community that has so much to show and offer.”
For Carpenter, “wellness” means having the skills and know-how to care for yourself physically and mentally.
“It’s learning boundaries, learning how to support others in the ways that they need, or even encouraging things like rest, recharging, saying no to things for yourself,” she said.
“Creating safe, inclusive spaces for them to reflect, connect, and learn more about themselves and what they need is a priority for me.”
‘The best healing of it all’
Lennie described the schedule for the gathering as “half workshops, half land and cultural activities.”
There will be discussions on SafeTalk (which stands for Suicide Alertness for Everyone), how to cultivate healthy coping mechanisms, and body mapping. Cultural activities include sewing, plant-picking, and fishing.
Lennie said being on the land is an integral part of any wellness program in the Western Arctic.
“I believe on-the-land healing is the best healing of it all,” she said. “I grew up going out on the land every weekend and, as a kid, I never quite realized how it shaped me as the person that I am today.
“If I have a struggle, I love to go out on the land because as soon as I come back, I feel a sense of peace in my heart. I want people to understand that feeling as well, because a lot of the time people don’t get that opportunity.”
The collective is accepting up to two youth aged 18 to 30 from each of the Beaufort Delta’s Inuvialuit and Gwich’in communities. The gathering is free for youth who are accepted. and the cost of transportation to Ulukhaktok, accommodation, and food is covered.
Lennie said the group has received “a solid handful” of applications but is looking for more.
People interested in participating are encouraged to apply by emailing a written or video statement by July 16.