Skilay’s Legacy: Haida Gwaii Youth Assembly 2019

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HGYA youth participants. Photo: CHN/Ileah Mattice

Rhonda Lee McIsaac

From the first participant application to the last video posted on social media, almost 100 young Island citizens have rejuvenated the power of youth leadership, the strength of community, and the unity that comes with building positive relationships. The sixth Haida Gwaii Youth Assembly gathered in HlGaagilda Skidegate September 26 to 28 after a year’s hiatus. The youth are recognized as leaders on Haida Gwaii, and for three days and three nights, HGYA is home. 

Skilay Ernie Collison initiated the first youth assembly in 1993. He recognized the value of youth and their leadership development. Former president, kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin reinvigorated the HGYA in 2013.

Team Skilay (Clockwise from left): Gya awhlans, Gaadguus, Hiilang.nga Jaad, Jaad Gudgihljuwah, SGaan Kwah.agang, Kuuk’ Iiwaans and Eddy Russ. Photo: CHN/Rhonda Lee McIsaac

Haawa to the Haida Gwaii Youth Assembly Committee, staff, and community members who contributed to the growth of this event this year!

Jutkenjus Laverne Hamilton, Kaakuns Pansy Collison, Kii’iljuus Barbara Wilson, Xyallaga Daaguuyah Desi Collinson, and Tarah Samuels.
CHN staff team: Carlisa Russ, Kim Robinson, Eve Hansen and HGYA coordinator Kristina Russ.

At the all-Islands event, youth join teams and compete in a series of challenges. Members of internal and partnering organizations support the teams and provide information and experiences that teach about Islands governance. This year participants chose from teams: Communications; Forestry; Oceans; HaiCo; Gwaii Haanas; Fisheries; Finance and Admin; Policy; Rediscovery; and Media. As always, Team Media photographed and filmed the event as non-competitors.

Newly elected CHN representative Xyallaga Daaguuyah Desi Collinson, former Skidegate Youth Council President and current Recreation Coordinator at Naa Gaagudgiikyagangs George Brown Recreation Hall encouraged each team. “Be a really solid community member and we can all work so much together,” he advised the youth in attendance.

As pillars to the nation and Island communities, K’aay.yas Elders also attended to share their knowledge and enjoy themselves. K’aay.yas language and culture advisors included Dr. SGaanajaadsk’yaagaxiigangs KathleenGolie” Hans, Guulang Xuhlwaay Leona Clow, Kaakuns Pansy Collison, Iljuu xiilaay Isabel Brillon, Jiixa Gladys Vandal, Gid.guu Kan.hlan.Kii.ngang Gordon Mills, and K’uuk Skujuuwas Darlene White. Participants sought their wise counsel and advice to support more Haida language and historical knowledge at the youth assembly.

Cree national speaker and facilitator, Kil Ulong Stan Wesley, inspired youth throughout the three-day event with his cheerful motivation and keen spirit. He was part of a team of facilitators dedicated to Skilay’s memory. This year Team Skilay included Gya awhlans Roy Collison, Gaadguus Erika Yahgujaanas, Jaad Gudgihljiwah Michaela McGuire, Hiilang.nga Jaad Seraphine Pryce, SGaan Kwah.agang James McGuire, Kuuk’ Iiwaans Kiefer Collison, and Eddy Russ. While Team Skilay are invited to guide and lead activities, each year the true leadership comes from the youth.

Photo: CHN/Rhonda Lee McIsaac

Participants elected a Youth Council on Thursday September 26. This year’s council includes (L-R): President Gaagwiis Reese Burton, Vice-president Zoey Collinson, James Wilson, Liam Pollard, Daatsii Cenita Sankey, Daniel Williams, Lula Issa, Chayla Williams, Sita Sly-hooton, Joshua David Towe, Freeman Bell and Cameron Holland.

Teams are issued “challenges” throughout the event and these mini-competitions become a big part of the HGYA and this year there were more tasks with tighter timelines. At first, the challenges can feel like herding cats, but once each team and their leaders find their groove, the excitement becomes contagious as participants buzz around the hall and town. Challenges this year included a group photoshoot, raffle ticket sales, and creating and performing a skit of a Haida Gwaii Superhero!

The third and final day started with a full morning of meetings and resolutions. Each year, the teams gather in a mock House of Assembly setting – the format and purpose mirrors the CHN’s Annual HoA. Youth gathered in teams and submitted resolutions related to logging, on-Island transportation, and direction to see more young voices included in governance and communications.

Wrapping up the final day’s events were the awards and naming of honorary Team Skilay members. Youth Team Skilay members identified as unique leaders were: Jacey Pollard, Ezra Bowey, Jordyn Sankey, Raquel Lavoie, Gid Kuuyas Collison-Robertson, Niccola Marsden, Daniel Williams, Trey Rorick, Maggie Borrowman, and Kristina Russ for their outstanding contributions to the 2019 Haida Gwaii Youth Assembly.

All of the contributions from CHN and the young citizens made the HGYA another great success with new friendships, skills, and Islands-wide connections.

Youth leadership and skills development was what won Team Communications the 2019 HGYA award. Team Skilay evaluates each team on participation, challenges, and other leadership qualities and announces the winner at the end of the 3-day event. Team Communications was honoured with this designation and a cash prize. Kudos to: Xiila Guujaaw, Lotta Koenig, Lumina Camire, Lilli Koenig, Amanda Waldorf, Devan Boyko, Jayden Brown, Bradley Frank, Daniel Williams and Team Leaders Ileah Mattice and Rhonda Lee McIsaac.

This article is published in the recent Autumn Haida Laas. View or download the full edition here.

Categories: Youth


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