Skidegate youth swap soda machine for wild-foods freezer

At the Skidegate Youth Centre, the kids have ditched their Coke machine.

Where once there was an old pop machine

High above Saturn, NASA scientists are about to shoot the Cassini spacecraft through a narrow gap in the ice rings, then slingshot it around the moon Titan so it gathers enough speed to orbit 22 times over the giant hurricanes at Saturn’s north and south poles before it finally loses fuel and melts into the atmosphere.

At the Skidegate Youth Centre, the kids have ditched their Coke machine.

Anything is possible.

“The kids not only suggested it, they started pushing for it,” says Anna Allan, co-ordinator at the youth centre, or Hiit’aganiina Kuuyas Naay.

But it wasn’t always that way. When the centre re-opened two years ago, most kids were pretty upset that Allan and fellow youth worker Willy Russ weren’t going to restock the old Coke machine in the hallway.

“We got a lot of flack from the kids, particularly at dances,” said Allan. “They were pretty chapped that we weren’t going to fill it with pop, and they tried to convince us to fill it with Powerade, orange juice, or whatever for the longest time.”

Likewise, the kids weren’t thrilled that the youth centre didn’t have sugary foods in the fridge anymore.

“All of them were looking in the fridge for Jell-O and finding asparagus.”

So what changed? Allan said the tipping point came after the centre started a food-gathering program where youth follow the harvesting seasons.

Around this time, early spring, they tried picking fiddleheads, nettles, and sgyuu seaweed.

Next came berries, and medicines such as Labrador Tea and Devil’s Club.

By mid-summer, they were into the sea, dipping crab pots, fishing for salmon, or going up to North Beach to grab razor clams at low tide.

Not only did the youth get a taste for wild food, they brought plenty back to the centre to store for another time.

That’s when they talked about the pop machine, and how much space it takes up. The youth suggested something better an upright deep-freeze for their seafood, berries, and deer.

It took time, but on Friday, March 24, the youth finally saw lift-off. The old Coke machine got carted out the door, replaced until the deep-freeze arrives by a stack of jarred salmon.

“I know the kids are really proud,” said Allan, adding that she and Willy Russ are really just stewards for the place it’s youth who run the show.