More than 60 people are expected to attend a youth potlach tomorrow afternoon at Carrier Sekani Youth Services. The purpose of the event is to teach young people about the customs of the potlach ceremony.
Carrier Sekani Youth Services Manager Kayla Brownscombe says her crew is busy getting ready.
“It’s a great opportunity for parents, youth, caregivers, professionals to come and learn about the potlach process and it’s role in Carrier culture. We’re going to start with some drumming. We have the PGSS youth drummers coming in so we’re very excited about that. Then we’re going to honour our youth that have overcome barriers or had a significant achievement in their life recently.”
The potlach will be led by Carrier Sekani Executive Director Mary Teegee. She will guide the youth through the ceremony, teaching the youth customs along the way.
“We’re trying to teach them how things are done. The clan system. All the laws and the protocols that are expected to be followed within the potlach. And some of the youth who are living here in Prince George don’t have that much opportunity to get back to their home to celebrate potlach so it’s a good way to bring together the youth and the community.”
When youth arrive they’ll be seated according to their clan: the beaver, frog, caribou, or bear. Teegee saying it’s important to engage young people in the traditions.
“I think it’s important for youth to become resilient. We know that with any youth if they know who they are, who they come from, have a strong sense of self identity they’re least likely to engage in high risk. It’s so important for our first nations youth to know that about them selves and celebrate who they are as an indigenous boy or girl.”
And with a relaxed atmosphere Kayla, Brownscombe says this ceremony will be a way to include youth without making them feel overwhelmed.
“Potlach can be a bit intimidating so it’s great that we start with something a little less formal. The goal of this potlach is that it’s a teaching potlach so it’s okay if you don’t follow cultural etiquette right away because we’re here to learn and we’re doing this experience together.”
And coming together and teaching youth about their heritage is ultimately what tomorrow’s event will be all about.