The 2023 Indigenous youth program coordinate in partnership between Youth Climate Corps, the Kwakwaka'wakw Revilatlization Project, and Awi'nakola Foundation was a major success! The program took place on Ma’amtagila territories, where Ma’amtagila People are reasserting their presence after having been forcibly removed over 80 years ago. Ma’amtagila territories are located on ‘Northern Vancouver Island’, and form a series of valleys where glacier fed rivers meet the ocean, creating estuarine ecosystems rich with life. Across the Johnstone Strait, Ma’amtagila territory extends into foggy islands famous for being resplendent places for harvesting food and having a very full belly.
This is the first year a youth program has taken place on Ma’amtagila territories since its reoccupation, and having a youth program has been one of the many goals associated with reasserting Indigenous sovereignty in the region.
Over the course of the program, youth ages 15-21 worked with Matriarchs, Knowledge Holders, Elders, Hereditary Chiefs, and settler supporters towards furthering overall Indigenous sovereignty and cultural revitalization. Workshops involved traditional knowledge sharing, cedar bark stripping and cedar weaving, traditional land management, carpentry and trail building, and Indigenous Law. The youth also participated in organizing and hosting a large feast in the Big House.
The evenings were filled with more laughter and lots of singing. The rivers and creeks were brimming with salmon, and one youth even spotted an elk with three babies, making their way across the estuary. It felt clear that the land was happy to have their people return.
This year’s youth program was moving and powerful, and it’s just the beginning!