The 2016 National First Nations Youth Summit on Wellness, held in Niagara Falls, Ontario, hosted over 200 First Nation youth from communities all across Canada. Marcy Jacques, Jill Martin and Tyler Morrison represented Listuguj at the event to learn how other First Nations youth are dealing with different issues in their communities.
The focus of the summit was clear — the well being of First Nations Youth across Canada. The Co-Chairs that spoke on Mental Wellness expressed that First Nations Youth do have belonging and purpose, and they are not forgotten.
“Those are our future leaders” said Bobby Cameron, Regional Chief for the FSIN. “We encourage them and acknowledge them. They’re all valuable, they’re loved and cared for.”
The facilitator Stan Wesley opened the Summit enthusiastically, calling for a culture of doing the very best you can. “What I tell people, is that when they’re struggling to figure out what they truly want to do, I challenge people — all people — to be good at everything you do, up to this point and forward.”
Nearly a dozen speakers — all renown in their area of expertise — presented to the audience throughout the day. Two conference rooms needed to be joined together to hold an unexpected number of participants. “We prepared for around 150 youth and had almost 300 registered before the event,” said Andre Bear, who became one of two newly elected Co-Chairs of the Assembly of First Nations Youth council on July 10. “We’ve heard great feedback from the attendees and we were also given a lot of advice on what we can do better for next time.”
The underlying theme of the entire weekend was the importance of wellness in the community — physical wellness, just as much as mental wellness. “Your garbage is my garbage,” said Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation, who spoke of the power of encouraging others, uplifting your peers with positive humor, and the fact that one problem within the community can cause an imbalance.
Before lunch “The Youth Walk of Hope” arrived, with weathered shoes, and reflective vests . They had completed their month long journey from Attawapiskat, northern Ontario, to speak with the AFN leaders, which held its 37th Annual General Assembly later that week in Niagara.
Patrick Etherington Jr. (Moose Cree Nation), spoke on behalf of the walkers of the recent struggles happening in the community of Attawapiskat. “I’m very proud of them man” said Etherington “They broke down their barriers that we all have, especially on more isolated reserves up north”
After the morning’s presentations, all attendees were treated to a catered lunch and “Pow-wow Bootcamp” created by Santee Smith and assisted by Joshua DePerry (AKA Classic Roots). The bootcamp is a high-energy Pow-wow/ Dance training class. Santee Smith wants to promote dance, physical fitness and life affirming body expression while incorporating culture.
The whole Summit lasted one day, and was a welcomed overload of information for those who attended.
“This inaugural gathering showed me that we can create a meaningful change for the lives of all First Nation youth,” said Jill Martin. “Each and every one of us has a voice that needs to be heard.