Youth, elders expand southern horizons
Trip to Edmonton an opportunity to sample other cultures

Paula White
Northern News Services

INUVIK (July 30/99) - A group of elders and youth were given the chance to view other cultures and lifestyles first-hand this week.

The group left for Edmonton on Saturday, July 24, and were to spend just under a week touring many different sites in and around the city, including the University of Alberta, the Science Centre, a soup kitchen and the Hobbema Reserve where they were to attend a powwow.

"It'll probably give them an idea of how youth and elders down south (live)," said Jim Martin, one of the organizers of the trip. "We also wanted to demonstrate to other Inuvik region communities what (their councils) could do in terms of trying to teach the young ones."

The trip is sponsored by the Nihtat Gwich'in Council, who selected six Inuvik youths, aged 12 to 17, from a number of applicants. Each had to write an essay on what they hoped to gain from the trip. The youth were to be accompanied by three elders: Bella Kay, Catherine Mitchell and Liz Crawford Hansen.

"I'm looking forward to the trip," Kay said. "I know it's going to be an educational learning on my part."

Martin said one of the purposes of the trip is try to teach youth to become strong leaders in the future. It is also to encourage them to stay in school and maintain healthy lifestyles by remaining drug and alcohol-free. He said the tour of the soup kitchen, as well as a tour of a not-so-nice part of town, will give the youngsters an opportunity to observe "what might happen if they do get involved (in drugs and alcohol)."

Martin said attending the powwow at the Hobbema Reserve (located about 85 kilometres south of Edmonton), gives both the youth and the elders a chance to observe sacred, traditional beliefs and values of other First Nations people. People from all across Canada and the United States are expected to attend.

Fifteen-year-old James Jerome said he applied to go in order to "see all the stuff that we're going to," including the powwow. He is especially looking forward to the tour of Hobbema Reserve, "to see what they do with their youth."

Martin said the group will also visit the Pe'Saskastaw Centre, a minimum security facility for Native offenders.

"It helps offenders go back into their own traditional values and beliefs," Martin explained. They will also have a chance to talk to chiefs and traditional healers, as well as view a sweat lodge.

"You leave your miseries there," Martin said, describing the sweat lodge. "You come out very clean. Your spirit is cleansed."

When the elders and youth return, Martin said, they will make a presentation to the council to talk about what they learned.

Funding for the trip came from a number of sources, including the Nihtat Gwich'in Council and the Legion, which donated $1,000. Two airline tickets were also donated from Canadian Airlines.