A Gwich’in poet has been recognized by his nation for a recent poem about his connection to his father and the land he grew up on.

Wade Vaneltsi says he wasn’t expecting anything when he entered his poem “A Love Letter to the Land” to the Gwich’in Council International’s contest. “I was like ‘what are the odds I’ll place in any category?’ So I entered with that poem in the adult category, and here we are now.”

The poem was first published in Red Rising Magazine. “If you look deep into our land, you will begin to understand everything in a way you cannot imagine,” Vaneltsi writes. “You will see and feel moments that will ignite the spirit within you.”

Vaneltsi, who is also a musician, says the poem is inspired by his father, and the connection his father taught him to have to the land. “All the years I spent with him, and all the time I do have with him, I always learn something from him. He’s like the muse behind that poem.”

The award comes with a $150 cash prize, but Vaneltsi says it’s the recognition that matters most.

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