Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ group Kiixin dances through the crowd at the closing ceremony for Gathering Our Voices, encouraging participants to join them in dancing around the Alberni Athletic Hall. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

EDITORIAL: Voices carry on well after provincial Indigenous youth conference is over

The Alberni Valley played host last week to an important cultural event…

The Alberni Valley played host last week to an important cultural event, Gathering Our Voices. More than 900 Indigenous youth and accompanying adults from around B.C. stayed in the Alberni Valley for the annual event, which connects youth to their culture through presentations, workshops, speeches and hands-on activities.

Over and over, participants and presenters alike talked about the importance of this Indigenous youth leadership event, which was hosted this year by the Port Alberni Friendship Center on both Tseshaht and Hupacasath territory.

Gathering Our Voices (GOV) has far-reaching effects. A Tseshaht First Nation businesswoman, Naomi Nicholson, said her interest in her own culture was piqued at a similar conference in Toronto many years ago. Nicholson and her husband hosted a venue last week and have launched a cultural tourism business, thanks to that first connection.

Tim Masso, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation youth who is passionate about his Nuu-chah-nulth language, spoke of the special drum that GOV participants carved over two days with his brother, Hjalmer Wenstob. Culture and language go hand in hand, Masso said, and each are vital to the future of Indigenous youth.

The drum is a lasting monument to Gathering Our Voices. It was presented to the PA Friendship Center, and will be used by members of at least eight nations for cultural practice and performances.

Hosting this event was a privilege and shows how respected our community is to have been selected to hold this event.

—Alberni Valley News

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