Day 7 – Iskut

Day 6 – Not dat lake, Dease Lake
October 6, 2015
Introducing Adeola Baldessari
October 21, 2015

Day 7 – Iskut

Words by Yolanda:

Today we made our way down from Dease Lake to Iskut, where we met with the Principal of the school, Carrie. Klappan Independent Day School is a First Nations school that doesn’t follow the BC curriculum.

Carrie is excited by our project and volunteers to help us find youth who may be interested to speak to us. It turns out there’s lots of people clamouring to have their voices heard and their stories filmed; we end up filming five.

Deeper is 24 and an aspiring filmmaker. For the past ten years he has had one foot in Iskut and one in Vancouver, shuttling back and forth for school and due to medical issues. He speaks at length about his grandparents and other elders in the community, whom he identifies as his superheroes — the guardians of the land and stewards of culture. He also speaks to the changes that are occurring as more and more industry and mining moves into his community. He says it is an issue which has divided his community. In his mind, industry has had both a positive and a negative impact. Mostly though, it’s been a learning process for the whole community.

Huey teaches kindergarten as well as art and woodworking. When we ask him what message he would like to convey to business leaders and politicians, he immediately speaks to the need for a Iskut-based high school. Currently, all students from grade 8 to grade 12 are bussed the 85km to Dease Lake each day. The road is mountainous, remote, and has no cell-phone reception. It’s treacherous in winter conditions. If anything were to happen to that bus, he says, it would devastate the entire community.

Ryland is 12, and speaks about how there is not much to do in his community. He’s excited for the basketball court that industry is bringing in.

Natasha is in her late twenties. She divides her time between teaching Grade 6 and driving a truck in the mines over the summer. Born in Iskut, she was raised in Hazleton where her mom took her in search of more opportunity. After bouncing between Terrace, Prince George, and Vancouver for post-secondary, she has returned to Iskut and is grateful to be able to spend time with her extended family. However, she also speaks candidly of the lack of infrastructure and support available for youth in her community. In order for her to raise a family in Iskut, there would have to be sweeping changes to build a healthy, vibrant community with many opportunities for youth to be engaged.

Robert, 20, speaks of being on the front lines with his family blockading Shell and other industry that has been trying to move through. When asked what his motivation is, he speaks of his little brother and his way of life hunting and living on the land. In his words, it’s ‘not worth a temporary dollar to sacrifice a permanent future.’ He’s seen the boom and bust cycles that industry brings, and says that the only constant around him is the land that will keep providing.

We leave Iskut with a lot to think about on the long drive down to Gitanyow. These youth have been open, honest, and courageous in sharing with us their ideals for a better future.  Although many of them have different perspectives on issues, they all speak to the many-layered complexity involved. We realize now more than ever that it’s important to have a diversity of voices involved in forging a way forward.
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