The Alberni Athletic Hall was home to more than 900 Indigenous youth delegates, chaperones, Elders and volunteers during the opening ceremonies of Gathering Our Voices on Tuesday, March 19.
Members of Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations welcomed visitors to their territories with songs and dances during the 17th annual Indigenous Youth Leadership Training. The event will take place in different locations across Port Alberni until Thursday, March 22, with more than 100 dynamic workshops and other activities.
Gathering Our Voices is hosted this year as a partnership between the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and the Port Alberni Friendship Centre. Each year, different BC Friendship Centes apply to co-host the event, and surrounding First Nations are engaged to ensure the community is consulted from planning to implementation.
Richard Samuel, the chairman of the board for the Port Alberni Friendship Centre, explained that the Friendship Centre worked closely with the City of Port Alberni and School District 70 to arrange facilities for the event.
“Over the next few days, my hope is to have all the youth participants have open hearts, listening to your facilitators,” he told the crowd on Tuesday. “They planned a long time to have these workshops for you, to lift you up, to ensure that you’re ready for adult life.
“This is an opportunity for you guys to learn, to grow as a person, as human beings, as kuu-us.”