The Wabun Youth Gathering celebrated its 11th year with venues at Laurentian University in Sudbury for seniors and the wilderness lake side resort setting of Horwood Lake Lodge, west of Timmins for juniors. More than 36 senior youth participated in the educational focused event July 24 to 28 at Laurentian University while 56 Wabun junior youth attended the event at the wilderness gathering July 17 to 21. The event was sponsored by Wabun Tribal Council Health Services based in Timmins and Health Canada. The event was coordinated by Faye Naveau, Regional Crisis Coordinator for Wabun Health Services.
“This year we wanted to introduce our senior Wabun Tribal Council youth to the options and opportunities available to them in higher education. We wanted them to experience what a university campus was like, to inform them about the assistance available for higher education and to provide them with interesting and action packed experiences,” explained Naveau.
Randi Lynn Ray, a Wabun member who is also part of Laurentian's Indigenous Student Affairs department provided a presentation to the senior youth on life on campus, the various forms of assistance available and care and guidance provided at the university. Julia Pegahmagabow, who also works for the university featured a workshop on cultural and traditional teachings. A writing contest sponsored by Xavier Kataquapit awarded top prize to Kiara Constant, second place to Jacy Jolivet, third place to Hannah Saunders and runner up prizes to Neebin Prince, Brooke Collins, Mylina Tangie and Nigel Neshawabin.
The senior youth participated in a challenge course, canoe trip and swimming and traditional craft making activities. They also had a tour of the university campus and visited Science North and Dynamic Earth.
“I really enjoyed being able to experience what it would be like to go to a university like Laurentian. There was a lot of good information provided and that should help me with any planning for my continued education. I also enjoyed all of the activities and making new friends from other Wabun First Nations,” commented Meegan Nahwegezhic, a Matachewan First Nation member living in Kirkland Lake.
The junior event featured traditional and cultural teachings through arts and crafts, horseback riding, fishing, water activities and fun on an inflatable obstacle course and bubble soccer event.
Shawn Batise, Ontario Provincial Assistant Deputy Minister for the Negotiations and Reconciliation Division of the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation attended the event to meet with the organizers, chaperones and youth. As former Executive Director of Wabun Tribal Council, he has been instrumental in supporting the Wabun Youth Gathering from the start and this year, joined in with some of the activities involving his son Quinton who was in attendance.
“I have watched the Wabun Youth Gathering grow over the years and I see through my own son and my family members just what a positive influence this annual event provides for our Wabun Youth. These young people are great and give us all hope for the future. In a way this type of event is very much an example of reconciliation at work for our people as we continue on a healing path and provide the skills and tools necessary for our youth to succeed,” commented Batise.
Jean Lemieux, Wabun Health Director, spoke to the senior youth in encouraging them to consider post secondary education.
“I hope many of you decide to attend University or college to take advantage of all of the support and assistance that is available. We need you to move ahead with education to take over from us in health care, administration, teaching and positions in the trades. I want to thank our Chiefs for steadfastly continuing their support for the Wabun Youth Gathering and I also say Meegwetch to Faye Naveau for all her hard working in making all of this happen and a special note of thanks to Shawn Batise our former Executive Director for travelling to the junior group event to encourage our youth,” commented Lemieux.
Organizers were also thankful to all the adults and support workers who made this event possible.
“I want to thank all of our chaperones for their help this year and a big thanks to our Elder Vina Hendrix who has been coming to our youth gatherings for so many years. She is a big comfort to us all and brings a voice of wisdom and balance to our event,” said Naveau.
The event was made possible through the vision and dream of Wabun Elder Thomas Saunders of Brunswick House First Nation who lobbied for a youth gathering to support the young people of Wabun Tribal Council. Sadly he passed before his dream came to be but his legacy lives on.
Wabun Tribal Council is a regional territorial organization which represents the six First Nation communities of Beaverhouse, Brunswick House, Chapleau Ojibwe, Flying Post, Matachewan and Mattagami in Northeastern Ontario and it is directed by its respective Chiefs.