Our day is filled with conversation, laughter, and some great footage! We start the morning meeting with Kiefer Collison, a friend from Haida Gwaii who currently works with CFNR as a host of the show Journeys. He speaks candidly about his experience in youth work and points to the Haida Gwaii Youth Assembly as a successful empowerment initiative. Every year, youth from across the islands are brought together for a few days to meet, generate ideas, and discuss important issues. It is a recreation of the structure of the Council of the Haida Nation, and they are mentored by the department heads of the actual Council. On the final day, they submit resolutions which are then brought forward to the House of Assembly. A recent example of youth resolutions which was successfully passed into law by the Council of the Haida Nation was to ban plastic bags in the communities of Skidegate and Old Massett.
This is followed by a conversation with Calvin Carlick, the Economic Development Officer for the Kitselas Nation in Git’aws. He’s eager to speak to us about the importance of including youth in official functions. Bringing marginalized youth to the table at Council or Board meetings, he says, empowers them to believe that they have a voice and that they deserve to be present and heard when important decisions are made. It’s a simple solution; one that is easily implemented but carries a lot of potential going forward.
Web, who works with Tourism for the Nation, invites us to explore the Kitselas Canyon. We are thrilled to wander around and take in the stunning sites: the Skeena River winding it’s way through the canyon, mossy foregrounds and mountainous backgrounds, new totem poles carved into the ancient forests that have been the homeland for the Kitselas for millennia.
Back in Terrace we meet up with the Chief Councillor of the Kitselas Nation, Joe Bevan, and he invites us to visit him in Git’aws that evening. We scramble to finish a few errands and grab a few last shots in the dying light; clambering down the banks of the Skeena we see nets strung out to catch the last coho swimming upriver.
We make our way back over to Git’aws and are privileged to be able to share in the launching of a new book in the community: a Sm’algyax language guidebook put together by four of the elders. There is barely a dry eye in the room as speaker after speaker attests to the obstacles that their community has overcome to get to this point: grappling with the legacy of the residential schools, starting to open up and communicate again inter-generationally, overcoming the shame associated with speaking their language, and reliving the trauma as the elders painstakingly pieced together a vocabulary from long-repressed memories. It was a true joy and honour to witness the community working to reclaim their language and honouring their elders. Perhaps most beautiful of all was the gratitude and awe of the four grandmothers who had toiled to produce this book as they were declared Professors. Watching waves of emotion cross their faces as their expertise and knowledge were recognized was truly a special moment.
Chief Joe graciously gave us a couple hours of his time for an interview. We spoke at length with him about many issues dear to his heart: gaining educational opportunities for youth, increasing employment, bringing in training programs to his community. When asked what compelled him to work so hard and so cheerfully for his nation, he responded that he was motivated to pull his people out of generations of poverty so that people could provide for themselves and their families.
Our evening was capped with a late dinner and conversation with our gracious host Doug, who cooked us delicious food and provided us with beds and the space to sort our day’s footage. After 18 hours of hard work, we called it quits at 12:30. Time to get rest for day 4!