The Inuvik Youth Centre’s new Land Leadership program and East Three School’s Wood for Elders program received a portion of this year’s On the Land Collaborative grant.

On the Land Collaborative is a partnership between Tides Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, private industry, and local Indigenous governments. This year, they announced they will be distributing $1 million in grants to 28 approved projects that focus on supporting on the land programming in the NWT.

Inuvik Youth Centre executive director Cheryl Zaw said they will use the funding for a new Land Leadership program for 10 to 12 youth aged 14 to 18.

Brian Kudlak, left, and Clyde Elanik deliver wood to an elder in Inuvik as part of the ongoing Wood For Elders program run through East Three School.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Miller

“We’ll be doing smaller day trips throughout the year with larger groups, and then quarterly trips for two or three nights where a small and consistent group meet together to learn more intensive skills and become leaders during the other program,” said Zaw. “They’ll be learning leadership skills, personal development and also land-based skills like how to go out and chop wood, make a fire, develop a camp, take care of yourself, feed yourself, fishing, hunting, trapping. Essentially they’ll be learning how to live on the land.”

She said the program will be led by a combination of youth centre staff and elders.

“The elders will be providing the traditional knowledge, passing that down to young people and teaching them what it means to be a leader in the traditional sense,” she said. “How can you make sure that the traditional culture is being passed down if it’s not the people who know it? It’s the elders who are the ones who know it best, especially when there’s that gap that happens with residential schools, and with colonization and with things changing so much, it’s really easy for that knowledge to get lost.”

Zaw said the program will aim to build up youths’ sense of self-worth by providing them with leadership opportunities.

“I see kids wanting to be leaders,” said Zaw. “There are casual opportunities for leadership, but there’s something important about naming it, and rewarding it with special trips out to reflect on it and really think about what it means.”

The youth centre’s land leadership program will aim to build up youths’ sense of worth.
Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

East Three Secondary School’s Wood for Elders program coordinator Matthew Miller said the program has grown in popularity in the last few years.

“When people hear that we’re dropping off loads of wood for elders free of charge, people get pretty excited about that,” said Miller.

Two staff members and six senior high students are certified with a chainsaw safety awareness program and have obtained wood permits to participate in the program.

“We go out, we cut up wood and put it into our boggans, and once we find elders that need wood, we pull up with loads of wood and we drop it off,” said Miller. “Some of the stories that I’ve heard are heartbreaking and heartwarming, because there are people with no source of heat. One of the guys from last year told me they pulled up to this one elder’s house who had no power and no wood in his yard and he was pretty thankful when they rolled in with a couple of boggans of wood for him.”

Miller said the program is important because it provides an opportunity for youth and elders to connect in a way that they aren’t always able to.

“Sometimes the kids don’t even know how to socialize with elders, and this gives them a starting point to have conversations with their elders,” he said. “Elders are the ones who have all the wisdom, the values, and so I think it’s a way that the kids can show the elders that they care about them and they respect them. It’s about developing a sense of community between the kids and the elders.”

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