Late registration remains open for the second annual Youth Symposium: Indigenous Youth Today being held at the Pioneer Complex from Feb. 21 to Feb 22.
Organized by the Yeqox Nilin Justice Society, formerly known as the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society, this event is free and open to for youth 12+ of all backgrounds, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to attend. Over the course of two days, youth will be encouraged to share their experiences with one another while they listen to and learn from a variety of speakers.
This year the event is being run and organized by youth and culture worker Hayley Guichon who is in charge of the success portion of Punky Lake responsible for running programs that motivate and inspire young people. She’s being assisted by people such as Rita Meldrum-Lulua who works as an elder youth worker at Denisiqi Services Society.
The event was started last year by the society’s current executive director, then youth and culture worker, Samantha-Jo Dick, Guichon said with a one-day symposium.
When she took over Dick’s old role in July, the event was something she wanted to continue on her own. After planning the event in August, Guichon partnered with Denisiqi in the fall and they’ve been meeting once a week ever since to hash out the details.
Meldrum-Lulua said the event was inspired, in part, by the Gathering of our Voices which offers youth similar experience but on a province-wide scale. Due to the cost, and the roving location, the Yeqox Nilin Justice Society wanted to provide a more local experience for those unable to attend.
“Our theme this year is Indigenous Youth Today so the issues and topics we’re going to be covering are around education, health and culture. So it’s healthy lifestyles, promoting education and Indigenous pride, so being proud of who you are,” Guichon said.
With the event open to anyone, Guichon said they have people coming from all over the province and while it is geared towards Indigenous youth specifically, non-indigenous youth should still find it a valuable experience.
Meldrum-Lulua said the speakers at the event include Mike James, who will be doing a lot of traditional games with the youth as he does with students across B.C. He has a real way of encouraging and inspiring young people to be outspoken and proud of who they are, according to Meldrum-Lulua.
Damien Ketlo, meanwhile, is another of the featured speakers, who Guichon said is a recent contestant on Big Brother Canada and is big on inspiring youth by providing them with a good role model.
Ketlo is also a member of the band Kedah Clan who will be performing the Friday night of the symposium at the Elizabeth Grouse Gymnasium on Sugarcane from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. This concert is for anyone to attend with admission by donation at the door.
Their third main speaker is Lisa Charleyboy who is a “lot of different things” according to Guichon. Charleyboy is a writer, storyteller, editor, Indigenous fashion entrepreneur and is a “great all-around” artist Meldrum-Lulua added. Meldrum-Lulua considers Charleyboy a beautiful soul and loves the fact she’s a self-made woman.
“We’re really lucky to have them. The people we chose for our main speakers definitely each have something big to give to the youth who attend,” Guichon.
During the day, when not attending a speech by the main speakers, the youth will be given the chance to break up into smaller groups and attend workshops of their choice. For example, Guichon said they will have workshops on topics like the medicine wheel, campfire stories, envisioning, the LGBTQS+ community, youth rights, nutrition and more. The Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake will also be presenting an anime workshop, she added.
Registration for the event takes place on Friday, Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. to noon, when chaperones are expected to come in to sign their youth up before the opening ceremonies at 1:30 p.m.
After some keynote speakers and workshops, the symposium ends for the day around 5:40 p.m. to allow attendees to check out the concert at Sugarcane. Saturday, meanwhile, Guichon said they get underway at 9 a.m. with a closing ceremony at around 2:45 p.m.
So far around 70 of their 100 youth capacity have signed up for the event so they’re still accepting late registration for the rest of the month until the event itself.
Guichon said spots will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis and can be done by contacting her via 778-412-9536 or firstname.lastname@example.org and filling out four registration forms.
Snacks and water will be available for youth who attend, however, Guichon said they will not be serving lunch. There will be a discount offered at the Ramada to all out of town attendees of the event who need a place to stay, Meldrum-Lulua said.
“(At this event) we really want to inspire our youth and let them know that they can pretty much go where they want to go so long as they have the determination, the self-love and confidence to thrive in this world,” Guichon said.