While thousands of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across the country protest against government inaction, a local youth group shakes things up in Richmond in an effort to learn more about this culture.
Richmond Youth Service Agency’s Aboriginal youth committee, OSKAYAK, will hold two fundraising initiatives for an upcoming conference in Penticton, while educating the community along the way.
“The committee is a great place for the youth to learn about their culture, which is an important aspect in forming their identities,” said Laura Baracaldo, RYSA Aboriginal youth worker.
The Gathering Our Voices conference in March further provides an opportunity for the members to share their cultural knowledge with others, while learning and networking, according to Baracaldo.
“Many meet people, become like a family and get inspired,” she said. “The youth group is a place for them to hang out and get support from each other.”
To kick off fundraising for the big trip, OSKAYAK plans on walking to Vancouver in the early morning this Saturday (Jan. 26). The following Friday evening (Feb. 1), they’ll canvas in front of local stores.
In both cases, the members hope to receive donations as they inform passersby about the importance of the committee and the conference, while discussing some of the topics interesting them.
The committee of seven members, ranging in age from 14 to 21, meets once a month to talk and design the OSKAYAK youth program.
What’s currently occupying their minds is the country’s largest First Nations protest in decades — Idle No More.
“It’s a social responsibility issue on the part of Stephen Harper,” said 17-year-old Alura Castle, a Grade 12 Palmer secondary student, who plans to join the protest in Vancouver Friday morning.
“It’s one thing to care about improving the economy, but you also have to take care of your resources in order to improve that economy. If your resources are depleted, then how can you have a good economy?”
Although a supporter of the protest, like some of her fellow OSKAYAK members, Alura expressed concerns that many have lost focus of its initial motivations.
“They’re bringing in a lot of big issues that are important because they haven’t been settled yet, but it’s also important to stay focused on the initial issue before bringing other stuff into the fire,” she said.
For Alura, joining the committee has helped her become more involved in a culture that’s important to her, where meetings include team-building exercises and workshops demonstrate traditional First Nations practices such as drumming and the medicine wheel.
“I know there’s been a lot of struggles and many have taken the wrong path, but we can draw youth away from that,” she said. “We learn how to be better people for our society.”