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Gwich'in wellness camp gathering aims to connect youth and elders

Artist Gail Ann Raddi, left, says she believes all ages, not just the youth, could benefit from more interactions with the elders in their communities. (Dez Loreen/CBC - image credit)
Artist Gail Ann Raddi, left, says she believes all ages, not just the youth, could benefit from more interactions with the elders in their communities. (Dez Loreen/CBC - image credit)

A youth and elder gathering planned for Feb. 23 and 24 aims to connect the two generations.

The event will take place at the Gwich'in wellness camp south of Inuvik.

Gwich'in Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik said the camp is the perfect place to host such an event.

Being on the land takes away distractions and helps guide a more open discussion between participants, he said.

"It was important for us to host a gathering like this at the wellness camp for those purposes. We find people are honest, more direct and overall just a healthier discussion when they're all together on traditional homelands," said Kyikavichik.

Ken Kyikavichik is the grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.
Ken Kyikavichik is the grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

Ken Kyikavichik is the grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

A call-out for elder and youth participants went out last week. Elders and youth from each of the four communities in the Gwich'In Settlement Area are encouraged to apply. There are also two spots for youth who live outside the GSA.

One of the desired outcomes of the event is to build on the youth and elder committee that was planned years ago by the GTC. Kyikavichik said the committee is something that has been delayed, but he is confident that it will begin work this year.

Honouring elders and learning from their lifetimes of knowledge is something that Gail Ann Raddi takes very seriously. She is an artist from Inuvik who advocates for elders and her traditional way of life, hunting on the land.

She believes all ages, not just the youth, could benefit from more interactions with the elders in their communities.

"So ... we need to connect our youth and even our older middle-aged people to reach out to them," said Raddi.

'We never know what the elders are going through'

Living in the harsh conditions of the arctic can be hard on everyone and especially those elders with mobility issues, said Raddi. She said little visits go a long way when connecting with the elderly.

"Just go over and see how they are, have bannock or a pilot biscuit and some tea. Ask if they need any help around the house," encouraged Raddi.

The elderly are often too shy to ask outright for the help they need so it's a good idea to offer instead of waiting for someone to request, she said.

"I used to always ask elders if they needed help doing dishes or washing floors."

Raddi said she was raised to keep her elders close and hopes that gatherings like this upcoming one will bring that sentiment to more young people's minds as they go about their lives.

"We never know what the elders are going through. We need to connect them back together on a regular basis," said Raddi.

Potential applicants can apply online through the Gwich'In Tribal Council Facebook page.