‘Gathering Our Voices’ Conference Raises Spirits
Team BC athletes who attended the 2014 North American Indigenous Games are honoured at the ‘Gathering Our Voices’ Conference yesterday 250News photo
Prince George, BC – It was an enthusiastic crowd of Aboriginal youth, their chaperones, and elders who gathered at the Civic Centre for the closing ceremonies of the ‘Gathering Our Voices’ Conference yesterday.
The four-day event was the 13th annual conference hosted by the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. Held in a different community every year, the 2015 gathering attracted 1,000 participants – the majority from BC, the rest from the Prairie provinces, and a contingent from Nova Scotia. BCAAFC President, Annette Morgan, congratulated organizers on ‘another successful’ conference, thanking them for ‘creating an opportunity to grow, learn, and share.’
The Executive Director of the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, Barb Ward-Burkitt, said, “It was so amazing the way that all of the youth came together in this community – with kindness, with patience, with respect for this traditional territory, and the place that we do business as youth leaders. (It) has been the best, bar none.”
As the largest of its kind in Canada, Ward-Burkitt said between 400 and 500 youth visited the Prince George Native Friendship Centre on the opening day of the conference, before attending workshops that focused on healthy lifestyles, honouring culture, and developing leadership skills.
At yesterday’s closing ceremonies, 18-year-old Mervin Robinson of Houston was recognized for his commitment to non-violence, to living an alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle, and to mentoring his peers.
The proud member of the Killerwhale clan was honoured with the Youth Champion Award.
Although this was his third time attending a ‘Gathering Our Voices’ Conference, Robinson was caught off-guard when his name was called, “I wasn’t (expecting) this at all. This is my first time getting something like this.”
Allie LeBourdais-Louis, a member of the Neskonlith Indian Band from Chase, BC, won the ‘Beyond Bannock’ Challenge for preparing a traditional moose roast meal, with help from her uncle.
Even yesterday, memories of the meal made the 18-year-old smile. LeBourais-Louis said she’s enjoyed the many role models she’s met at this year’s conference.
“The thing that stood out the most for me was the ‘Elders don’t bite’ workshop – it was a good workshop with a lot of teachings about respect and re-connecting with our elders.”
As part of the conference, the provincial Aboriginal Youth Council brought a cedar log, which participants were invited to help carve over the course of the four days.
Yesterday, the resulting prayer box (shown below) was unveiled and gifted to the Prince George Native Friendship Centre.