Dozens of students from high schools across Nanaimo took part in a reconciliation event last week.
On Nov. 30, more than 50 high school students filled the Beban Park social centre to participate in Youth Leading Reconciliation. The event, organized by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island, featured a range of activities including drumming, a blanket exercise, and a speech from Snuneymuxw Coun. Doug White III.
Hayden Johnston, organizer and youth program supervisor for the Boys and Girls Club, said the aim of the event was to bring youths together in a positive manner.
“Doing an event like this connects both non-indigenous and indigenous people in a dialogue and an experience that allows them to share and be open with one another and reconnect with their cultural identity,” he said. “If we can get youths engaged in reconciliation now, the thought is we can keep reconciliation moving forward for generations to come.”
Members of the Boys and Girls Club youth council, made up of three non-indigenous and three indigenous youths, also had a hand in organizing the event.
Johnston said the youth council helped out with everything from designing a logo to creating the atmosphere of the event.
“They came up with workshop ideas, they came up with ideas for the look and feel of the event,” Johnson said.
Charolette Nelson-King, a 17-year-old member of the youth council, said that as a person of First Nations ancestry, she believes it’s important that young people make the effort to try to understand what reconciliation is all about.
“It’s the big idea. A lot of people hear the word reconciliation, but they don’t know what we are reconciliating for and they don’t know how to partake in that,” she said.
Gabby Keown, 18, also on the youth council, told the News Bulletin that she’s learned a lot about indigenous culture and what reconciliation means during her time as a youth council member.
She said she hoped that those who attended the event went away with a better understanding of the problems faced by indigenous people.
“There are a lot of things that happened to the First Nations people that people don’t even realize … and it is important for those to understand that it could be a deeper problem than they actually realize,” she said. “Such as the residential schools, which are still affecting youth today, even though there are none.”
Nelson-King said she wants people, particularly youths, to be more sensitive to the subject around reconciliation and why it is taking place.
“I want them to be more open-minded,” she said. “I want them to think about where those stereotypes come from. I want them to ask themselves where did they come from. I want them to put more thought into the issue and have a deeper understanding.”