When asked, youth decided they wanted more gatherings with no workshops and that’s what they got this past weekend on Tow Hill Beach, says co-organizer Tara Samuels, Heather Ramsay writes.
The Sgwansang K’uuk Inter-Nation gathering, which was inspired by the results of a youth forum on suicide prevention held in Prince Rupert in May, was a spectacular event say organizers.
“I can’t put into words how great it was,” says Harmony Williams who worked with the Old Massett Haida Health Centre on the project.
Approximately 300 people from ten Haida, Tsimshian and Nisga’a communities gathered for a weekend to celebrate life, she says. In terms of suicide prevention, organizers feel this kind of life-affirming gathering is the ultimate way to prevent youth suicide.
Other than an organized bonfire-building contest on Friday night, the events of the weekend, including volleyball games and a walk to the blow-hole, were youth-directed.
“They made their own schedules,” says Ms. Samuels.
Savannah Samuels, a 17-year-old Haida youth, who also helped organize the weekend, said the bonfire-building contest was the highlight.
The contest started as a way to create four fires organizers hoped would be gathering points for those who wanted to talk, tell stories or sing and dance.
It quickly became a team-building exercise as each nation worked to build the biggest fire possible.
The youth struggled together to haul huge logs up the beach and pile them before the big burn. Losing teams had to sing and dance for the winners, an amazing event that went on all night, says Savannah.
Another highlight for Savannah was that everyone ended up getting to know each other.
“It wasn’t cliquey. Different towns just hung out with each other,” she says.
Youth also looked after setting up their own camps, including building fires each day and drying clothes.
Organizers heard good things from youth and chaperones about the weekend despite the bad weather and the lack of sleep. Some youth were saying the event helped them realize they don’t want to use drugs and alcohol says Ms Williams.
The weekend wrapped up with a dance Sunday night.
The gathering will be held again next year, but another community will put it on, says Ms Samuels.
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