“What about our youth?”
It’s a question 19-year-old Kateri Lynn hears all the time — asked by community leaders and elders well beyond her years.
For Lynn, it’s become a rhetorical question. Youth are often considered, but rarely listened to.
Their voices are lost.
In her home community of Dettah, she hopes to change that.
Lynn is running for band council.
“Too many times, youth are usually shut down when they have something to say or are forgotten to be included,” she told Yellowknifer in a recent interview.
Lynn is one of nine candidates vying for a council spot ahead of the Aug. 26 Yellowknives Dene First Nation band council election, which comes on the heels of the recent re-election of Edward Sangris as Dettah chief. Twelve other hopefuls are running for council in Ndilo.
Lynn, who threw her hat into the race earlier this summer after years of community engagement and volunteer work, was driven to pursue an election bid after working with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation Land and Environment (L&E) Department as part of the Giant Mine Remediation Project.
She was was a part of meetings between community members and the territorial government — but something was missing.
“I’d attend all these meetings and there was never any youth in attendance,” Lynn recalled. “We’re depending on them to set our future but we don’t even have a say in it.”
“The lack of youth involvement in community issues really started to hit me,” she added.
Ensuring young people have a say in the future of Dettah and beyond is the central focus of Lynn’s election bid.
She wants to become a conduit between council and the concerns of young people who often feel uncomfortable or unsafe airing their ideas and opinions to adults.
“My age brings to the table a whole new perspective,” said Lynn, adding she’s closely in tune with the needs of the youth in her community.
“Indigenous youth are growing up lost, they don’t know their own identity, or who their people are and came from.”
Listening to what young people have to say doesn’t mean overstepping the advice and guidance of elders, of whom Lynn has received support and encouragement in her run for council, she said.
It simply means looking at issues through a different lens, she said.
“Times are changing and we need to make sure we aren’t left behind,” said Lynn.
“We need to respect our elders’ words but they need to respect ours, too. Our words are just as sacred as theirs,” she continued.
Lynn, who has incorporated education as another focus in her election effort, is currently taking online courses as she pursues her Bachelor’s degree in Management in Indigenous Nations and Organizations. Lynn plans on using her education for the betterment of her community, hoping to overturn a trend of young people who leave the North for school and “forget” about Dettah in their post-secondary pursuits.
She said high school graduates are often told to “go off to school,” while the costs associated with doing so are overlooked.
“We need to realize that a lot of youth in the community need help with funds to actually get the education they want,” Lynn told Yellowknifer.
Lynn’s own education, she said, will help hone her leadership and negotiation skills as she looks to tackle community development issues in Dettah. She’s also focusing on social issues, including addiction, poverty and employment barriers.
A lack of access to housing, along with inadequate living conditions, are also on Lynn’s radar, she said.
Here’s a breakdown of candidates for the Dettah and Ndilo councillor election:
- Jessica DeLeary
- Bobby Drygeese
- Alfred Liske
- Kateri Lynn
- George Martin
- Liza Pieper
- Derrick L. Sangris
- Jonas Sangris
- Mary Rose Sundberg
- Cecilie Beaulieu
- Troy Beaulieu
- Justina Black
- Lena Ann Black
- Lloyd Drygeese
- Roy Erasmus Sr.
- Catherine Lafferty
- William Lines
- Elizabeth J. Liske
- Philip E. Liske
- Ted Tsetta
- Alice Wifladt
Hear the platforms and plans of election hopefuls at a forum at the Ndilo gym, Aug. 15 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.