Youth-centred performances and events on community, environment, and desires for their future

By Vanessa Sloan Morgan and May Farrales

In March 2019, youth from across unceded and traditional Dakelh territories in northern British Columbia attended an evening of performances on healthy environments and communities. The day following, youth from School District 91, the Nechako-Lakes District took part in a full day workshop dedicated to exploring youth desires for their futures and building on key themes explored the night before.

On March 14th at Omineca Arts Centre, around 50 youth from northern BC joined singer/Songwriter from Lheidli T’enneh Nation Kym Gouchie, Filipino hip-hop artists and mental health advocate Francis Arevalo, and kendama extraordinaire Austen Nickerson for an evening of performances on healthy environments and communities. Youth took part in a friendship dance, were invited to try their hand at the kendama, and collectively kept the beat for performers during the two hours of events.

On March 15th, youth from School District 91 participated in an all-day workshop at the University of Northern British Columbia. Lheidli T’enneh Elder Kenora Stewart opened the workshop orienting the youth to the territory and speaking about relationships to land in light of resource extraction. The youth then took part in sharing circles and activities to highlight their priorities and take away points from the powerful performances the night prior. Francis Arevalo then walked the youth through a workshop to explore what youth need to grow healthily and sustainably in their communities using the metaphor of a tree. The youth collectively created their powerful poem Let me Grow, highlighting the power of community, balance, and relationality in all aspects of our lives. In the afternoon, youth heard from forest fire fighters who had worked to evacuate local communities the summer prior, and discussed fire smart measures that can be taken to prepare communities for the expected fire season. Youth then identified what they saw as the strengths, challenges, and priorities for their community through a hands-on exercise and sharing circles. Touching on everything from the impacts of mill closures and dangers of single resource towns, to a lack of resources and supports for aging members of their communities, youth pointed to complex topics to help guide future engagement as part of the ‘Inheritors of the Future’ research program. For a summary report of the September 2018 ‘Inheritors of the future’ workshop, click here. For local media coverage on the March 2019 and September 2018 workshops, click here.

Continuing the energies cultivated from the March 14th and 15th performances and workshop, local Prince George Filipina/o youth organized an intimate evening of performances featuring fellow Filipino youth and artist Francis Aravelo on March 15th. The evening brought together Filipino/a youth who migrated to the traditional and unceded of the Lheidli T’enneh in recent years to share their talents and experiences through song. The Filipino/a youth were joined by Johnathan Alec of the Carrier Dakelh nation who shared of his community’s relationships to the lands and waterways of their territories. The event was organized in collaboration with the ‘Inheritors of the Future’ research project, and with support from the Health Arts Research Centre at UNBC and Magel’s Café.