May 2015—Williams Lake: Our weekend youth camp with the 7 Tsilhqot’in and Carrier-Sekani reserve communities around Williams Lake was a hit. We delivered two workshops for adults before spending the weekend with youth from across this broad territory. This youth worker from one of the most remote communities describes what happened:
“It was difficult to get the youth to even come to camp. At first, they stuck to their friends and refused to make eye contact with anyone. These kids comes from communities where things have been rough lately. There is a lot of poverty. Gangs. We’ve had some violent deaths. So it was amazing to see the changes begin right from the opening circle. You could almost see the barriers fall! It was amazing how quickly the youth become comfortable with themselves and each other. Soon they were jumping at the chance to tell stories, sing together, dance. One of our young men even put on a pink tutu!
That first night we sat around the campfire listening to an Elder. When he pulled out his drum, he was drumming alone. By the end of the evening, there were 12 drums and everyone wanted a turn. Youth were singing and playing and teaching one another. Some of them had never performed in their life. Over the next two days, these kids from different communities turned from nervous and withdrawn individuals into a confident group of cohesive friends. The momentum and enthusiasm built all weekend. The youth were so supportive of one another. It was beautiful to watch how they relaxed and opened up in that environment of trust and acceptance. I felt privileged to be witness to it all.
The most common complaint? The weekend camp was way too short.”