“We are at a critical juncture with our language and traditions. Our elders are passing away and our parent’s generation will be the last fluent speakers unless we act now. Of course, woven into our Gwich’in language is our entire way of being, our spirituality and connectedness to the world around us. We have always recognized and honored the youth of our community because of our understanding that they are truly are future leaders: They are our future chiefs, doctors, attorneys, advocates, healers, tradition bearers and caretakers of the land.”
The Gwich’in are the northernmost Indian Nation living in fifteen small villages scattered across a vast area extending from northeast Alaska in the U.S. to the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada. The Gwich’in Steering Committee has received funding from the Sacred Fire Foundation in the past for this same initiative. The purpose of the Youth Leadership Camp is to help raise self-esteem and leadership skills of Gwich’in youth through Indigenous Environmental Education, cultural activities, and focused discussion on issues directly affecting the Gwich’in community as well as strengthening their language and traditions. The Youth Leadership Camp will gather a group of 15 youth, ages 14-18, to participate in a leadership development camp in Arctic Village, AK. Funds requested will cover elder honoraria, materials and supplies.
The Youth Leadership Camp gives us an opportunity, outside the public school system, to give time and attention to our youth and allows us to hear their concerns as well. The theme of this year’s camp is ‘Camp Goonzii: Our Grandfather’s Boat’. How do we as Gwich’in honor our connection to our waterways? What are our traditional Gwich’in navigation terms? And how do we honor our connections to the water? How do we keep it clean and healthy? These are the questions we will ask our youth to explore with our elders and community leaders over the course of the week.