Indigenous-led youth retreat to foster connections and support mental wellness

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From March 6 to 10, 2023, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation and the Government of Yukon hosted an Indigenous-led by-youth-for-youth retreat at the Sky High Wilderness Ranch outside of Whitehorse.

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The retreat was designed for young adults between the ages of 19 and 35 who are working in, or interested in working in, health, wellness, heritage, and/or culture for future generations. Youth from First Nations and communities across the territory were invited to participate.

The purpose of the retreat was to create a gentle and supportive space for all participants to connect and feel a sense of belonging to each other and to the important work they do in their communities. Throughout the retreat, attendees participated in a variety of activities such as dog sledding, traditional medicine, talking circles, medicine walks, self-care and a variety of ceremonies.

The event was hosted by five young leaders from the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation’s Wellness Department. Five young Indigenous leaders from across Canada, who created A Life Promotion Toolkit by Indigenous Youth and who are connected to the Thunderbird Partnership and the We Matter Campaign, were also invited to share their knowledge and offer sessions. Elder Ed Connors from the Kahnawake Mohawk First Nation and Elder Diane Smith from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation offered guidance and support to the group.

The retreat was part of the Nihè dinch’è jì’ wë̀ tä̀ zul (It is Better When You are With Us) initiative that uses a life promotion lens to address mental wellness, suicide prevention, substance use and more. A life promotion approach, as outlined in A Life Promotion Toolkit by Indigenous Youth, seeks to restore hope, belonging, meaning and purpose by connecting to land, self, community and spirituality.

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