It started with a death in the community, a suicide last November. Young people close to the deceased asked each other why it came to that — “What wasn’t there for him? What did he need?” 

The conversation that started in living rooms extended to teleconferences between communities. Young people talked about what is missing from Yukon communities, isolated and non; they talked about what is in place.

The general consensus was “now more than ever young First Nations have so many opportunities, we want to look at that with eyes wide open.”

The problem is, there’s a gap between what is available to young First Nations in the Yukon, and what young First Nations in the Yukon have. Kluane Adamek says there’s a lack of motivation and support among First Nation youth in the territory. 

“There’s so many things we can be involved with, we have to know what they are.”

Adamek noticed many First Nations in other parts of the country have youth networks; when she sat on the National Youth Council for the Assembly of First Nations for three years she wished she had a body supporting her from the Yukon. She realized the network could bridge the gap, and bring young people to opportunities in Yukon communities.

Along with Samantha Dawson, Marissa Mills, Kathryn Porter, Wildfred Johnston and Katie Johnson, Adamek formed a “pseudo-group” called the Young Indigenous Emerging Leaders. 

The group is looking to help young people who may resort to suicide or substance abuse by providing education and support. 

The Emerging Leaders group has been organizing a gathering, “Our Voices”, that will be held this weekend at Brooks Brook, near Teslin. The gathering “will give a sense of where we’re at” with the Emerging Leaders group.

It will also start showing young First Nations what they can do to be “emerging leaders”. Adamek says the term is to make up for the fact that a lot of people who are defined as “youth” aren’t really that young — they’re in their mid-to late 20s. Emerging leaders can be anyone who makes positive choices in their communities, who teaches language, sings and dances, or works with young people.

The gathering will hold workshops on understanding land claim agreements. Adamek says all Canadians should understand those agreements, but especially First Nations. “It’s so important to understand where that came from, what it means. We have a responsibility to know.” 

There will be a chance for youth to connect with elders on the land — Adamek says it was important for the gathering to be held on traditional territory, and the Teslin Tlinglit Council offered the location.

There will be conversation circles for males and females, in which gender roles will be discussed. Adamek says men don’t really have roles in the community; they will talk about how it used to be.

The Emerging Leaders will create short and long-term action plans at the gathering. The hope is they will start to be a unified voice for young First Nations in the Yukon.

Adamek says, “in order for this to be successful, you can’t be asked, you just have to do.” 

She wants young people to go back to the community and be motivated. She says there’s so much opportunity, and she wants people to be at a place where they can take advantage of it.