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The Snuneymuxw flag becoming a permanent fixture on Nanaimo City Hall Sunday was symbolic of a positive relationship that is being built in the community.

The graduation rate among aboriginal students is at an all-time high at 64 per cent in 2013-14 and First Nations are represented on Nanaimo city council, the school board, the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and the Regional District of Nanaimo, giving role models for youth.

In fact, according to Chris Beaton, Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre executive director, role models are related to the graduation rate increase.

“When you talk about youth and how they’re moving forward from the residential school legacy, is that they are beginning to see their brothers, their sisters, their cousins, their aunties, their uncles being successful in education, working more in mainstream society.

“They’re seeing role models from their own community and I think that’s helping them move forward as well,” said Beaton.

Erralyn Thomas, Snuneymuxw band councillor, said role models are very important to aboriginal youth. She said there are two ways of living in the world: “mainstream” and “Indian country.”

“In Indian country, the way we learn in our culture is very hands on. Each family has a role and each individual in the family has a role within the family. It’s very hands on, it’s very mentorship-style, so it is the way of learning at home,” said Thomas.

She said you have to follow someone that’s been there already and people can extrapolate that way of learning into the education system or the workplace. It’s a transferable skill and helps people succeed.

Thomas understands why people may look up to her, being an elected official with a law degree from the University of British Columbia, but doesn’t see herself as a role model.

“Having that time in a career for somebody to look at and say, ‘I want to be there,’ I think I’m just getting started,” said Thomas.

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When Kwanlin Dün Chief Doris Bill announced the camp on June 24, she had tears in her eyes.

The First Nation is hosting a healing conference for youth in Whitehorse with participation from nine other First Nations.

Bill says it's urgently needed.

"Not only Kwanlin Dün, but other First Nations in Yukon have dealt with a lot of loss and that loss has affected our communities," she said.

The conference will gather more than 100 young people for music, counselling and workshops. Bill says the communities are united by a shared experience of mourning.

"Suicide is at the top of that list, unfortunately," she said. "It seems as if our communities are continuously grieving."

Bill said recent murders in the Kwanlin Dün First Nation have shaken the community.

"Back in December, when Brandy Vittrekwa was murdered in our community, one of things things I noticed was the effects that had on our young people. They were completely traumatized and in a lot of cases, those young children really had no outlet for their grief," Bill said.

"One thing we're hearing from First Nation communities across the territory is that they're having a difficult times, struggling, not knowing what to do with the number of suicides and deaths that have happened in the communities. We need to address this with our young people," she said.

"If we are going to find solutions we have to involve our young people."

Yukon premier voices support

The healing conference will be called Strength Within Circle. It will be held at the Jackson Lake Healing Camp, a facility maintained by the Kwanlin Dün First Nation for on-the-land programs.

A similar conference was held last year in Teslin, Yukon.

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski says the territorial government is contributing $60,000 towards this year's camp, which is added to $50,000 in contributions from Yukon First Nations.

"The event carries forward the momentum of last year," said Pasloski.

Pasloski said workshops would focus on respectful relationships, suicide prevention, coping with loss and leadership.

"This gathering is designed to build each participant's personal resilience and expand their support networks among them," he said.

Speakers from across Canada

Kluane Adamek is part of Our Voices, a Yukon aboriginal youth group that focuses on positive messages and empowerment.

"It's everyone's responsibility to support our youth," Adamek said. "We and the next generation have a role to play. We see a future where northern indigenous youth are inspired, engaged and thriving, and holding up our cultures."

Speakers announced so far include Ojibway Olympic boxer Mary Spencer, singer Diyet who is from Burwash Landing, and Anishinaabe and Métis comedian Ryan McMahon, who is known for his podcast 'Red Man Laughing."

The gathering is set for July 3 to 5 and attendance is free.

Bill says more young people are expected to camp on the grounds of the Jackson Lake healing camp. Those under age 18 are required to have a chaperone.

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The Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario (ASWCO) is pleased to announce a sports promotion partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Sports United Envoy Program.

The U.S. Mission in Canada is programming two Olympian female soccer Envoys across Canada in June as part of a mission--‐wide sports engagement Strategy in relation to the upcoming Pan Am Games (July 10--‐26) and The Para Pan Games (August 7--‐15). This Soccer Envoy program will provide life and sports skills for indigenous girls, newcomers and other underserved communities within Canada.

The athlete selected for the Soccer Envoy program in Sudbury this June 25th is Mary Harvey. Harvey is a retired American soccer goalkeeper and Hall of Famer for U.S. Soccer. She was the starting goalie for 1991 U.S. Women's National Team, which won the inaugural 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup; and a member of the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal team.

In Sudbury, Harvey will speak to the press,make presentations at local schools, and hold soccer clinics for indigenous boys and girls. Harvey will meet with the press and local officials, coach a soccer clinic at St. Charles College, and speak to girls soccer players at Laurentian University. For inquiries about this Sudbury event, please contact Randy Pascal, Executive Director of SportLink, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer Helen Stoumbos will join Mary Harvey in Sudbury for the Soccer Envoy program. The former member of Canada’s national team has committed to work with Aboriginal youth across the province over the next two years, to promote the game of soccer, and build their soccer skills.

In addition to the Soccer Envoy program, ASWCO will be hosting The first Aboriginal Soccer Skills Camp and Recreation Tournament in Sudbury from July 10--‐12th at Laurentian University, as well as an Aboriginal multi--‐sport camp in

Partnership with Sudbury Sport Link and Laurentian University From July 6--‐10.

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The Cowichan Valley is taking another shot at landing a major national sporting event.

It was announced earlier this month that local governments and First Nations are working together to bid for the 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. The bid package, which was submitted on May 27, puts an emphasis on "strong cultural community building, economic sports development, a lasting community sports legacy fund, participant quality experience, community leadership and capacity." Hosting the tournament, bid committee members say, would enhance the community building sparked in 2008 when the region hosted the North American Indigenous Games.

"This tournament will again have our Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities come together to provide a memorable experience for not only the athletes and the hockey community, but for all who participate and observe," 2008 NAIG committee president Calvin Swustus said.

Cowichan Valley Regional District Chair Jon Lefebure agreed. "We have seen firsthand the powerful impact events like Cowichan 2008 NAIG can have on our region," he said. "Hosting this national hockey championship will again bring direct and significant sport, economic, cultural, and social benefits to the Cowichan Valley."

The week-long tournament is held every spring, showcasing bantam and midget age players from across Canada. A total of 16 teams compete in male and female divisions, with more than 400 players, coaches, managers and trainers expected to attend.

The Cowichan Valley hosted the BC Seniors Games in 2005, and will host the BC Summer Games in 2018. Former multi-sport star athlete and NHL scout Herb Strongeagle and retired NHL defenceman Doug Bodger will serve as honorary chairs for the championships.

"I am honoured to support Cowichan's bid for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships," Strongeagle said. "These championships will again bring our communities together and we will be proud hosts."

"The strength of the Cowichan Valley is more than its exceptional recreation facilities, unique geographical backdrop and history of delivering successful events," Bodger added. "Cowichan has proven that our unified area of community partnerships has set a new benchmark in the delivery of these types of events."

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Just in time for National Aboriginal Day on June 21, AltaLink, Alberta's largest electricity transmission provider, announced a new sponsorship with the one-of-its-kind Alberta Indigenous Games. Held in July in Edmonton, the games bring together Aboriginal youth to coach participants for 'life, career and sport.'

Announced at its National Aboriginal Day celebrations in honour of Aboriginal Peoples' unique culture and heritage, the sponsorship reflects AltaLink's commitment to its relationships with Alberta's Aboriginal communities.

"As the largest owner and operator of transmission facilities in the province, it's our job to keep the lights on for more than three million Albertans, and we couldn't do that without our many partners, including the First Nations and Metis communities across Alberta," said Leigh Clarke, senior vice president of external engagement. "We are extremely pleased to be able to recognize the importance we place on these relationships by partnering with the Alberta Indigenous Games, an event that benefits many Aboriginal youth."

More than 1,000 youth are expected to participate in and benefit from the games this year.

"The vision of these games is to provide a venue for Aboriginal youth, sponsors, spectators and families to participate in youth empowerment, as well as come to an understanding of the 'Circle of Courage' through the Spirits of Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity," said Alberta Indigenous Games founder Allan Ross. "Through the wisdom of Indigenous culture and the amazing power of sport, the Alberta Indigenous Games will continue to promote, integrate and infuse the Circle of Courage philosophy throughout all events of the games. All staff and volunteers will be encouraged and assisted to deliver an emotionally supportive environment to 'Coach our youth for life, career and sport.'"

The games are held every two years and include 12 special events, competitions in 10 sports, a career fair, role model mentors, elders, indigenous arts, speaking, music, dance and other gatherings focused on affirming the theme of 'Reclaiming our Youth.'

The games are held from July 12 to 16 in Edmonton. Visit www.enbasports.ca to learn more.

Headquartered in Calgary, with offices in Edmonton, Red Deer and Lethbridge, AltaLink is Alberta's largest electricity transmission provider. We are committed to meeting the province's demand for electricity, providing innovative solutions, and partnering with our stakeholders and communities in doing so. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, AltaLink is part of a global group of companies delivering electricity and utility services to customers worldwide.

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Looking back, 25-year-old Lorie White admits she was kind of lost.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had a lot of friends who had gotten into drugs, who had gotten into alcohol, so it would have been so easy for me to get into that as well."

But that all changed when she took the plunge at 15.

She signed up for a free aquatic-leadership program run by the City of Edmonton targeting aboriginal youth — a program called Nîkânîw, Cree for 'one who leads the way.'

Participants spend one evening each week in the pool learning water safety, first aid and leadership skills.

They also cook, share a meal and learn traditional aboriginal teachings from local elders.

Before the program, White says she would "go to the pool, swim with my sisters and brothers and we would just play. I never actually thought of it as a way to exercise or as a job."

A decade later Lorie White is now a lifeguard, trainer and in charge of Nîkânîw — a program now expanding to a second pool, with double the number of participants, according to Michelle Brodie Cartier, supervisor with the City of Edmonton aquatic experiences and education.

The program currently accommodates 30 young people, but many others are added to a waiting list, she said.

"It just breaks our heart each year when we have to turn people who are interested away."

Beginning this fall, they'll take up to 60 applicants and be running at both the Clareview Community Recreation Centre and Jasper Place Fitness and Leisure Centre.

Aboriginal elder Francis Whiskeyjack remembers White as a bashful, quiet teenager trying to find her way.

He says he's proud of the leadership and commitment she is showing in pushing to expand the program — one of the reasons why Whiskeyjack helps with the program.

"Basically, what I do there is give them inspirational talks. If need be to listen to problems, but mostly to ground people in rebuilding identity in who they are and where they've come from."

Whiskeyjack says having this leadership program in the swimming pool is a perfect fit because water is "one element that gives you the stamina, the energy, the strength, endurance; either by ingesting or swimming through it.

"It's very connected to mother earth."

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August 19-26, 2015, Iqaluit, Nunavut

Inuit youth from across Canada will gather in Iqaluit, Nunavut this fall for a National Inuit Youth Summit (NIYS). The Summit, to be held August 19-26, 2015, provides an opportunity for Inuit youth to come together to discuss issues of mutual importance, learn leadership skills, build cultural connections and determine the priorities of the National Inuit Youth Council (NIYC).

Throughout the Summit, participants have the opportunity to:

Learn and share traditional Inuit skills, knowledge, and customs.
Develop a variety of leadership and employability skills, as well as the confidence and resilience to use these skills.
Explore and discover areas of personal interest, skill, and capacity they might not have valued or known about.
Find inspiration, feel empowered, and share reflections through art, written and verbal communication, and storytelling.

Application Deadline: Friday July 24, 2015 12pm CST

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Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) Robert C. McLeod and Mr. Landon French, Vice-President, Community Relations at Canadian Tire Corporation, announced a new partnership agreement which will provide $225,000 towards equipment training and capacity building for after school physical activity programs through ACTIVE AT SCHOOL.

“Building partnerships to provide better services to Northwest Territory residents is one of the strategic goals of this government,” said Minister McLeod. “Working with Canadian Tire via ACTIVE AT SCHOOL to improve existing programs, including MACA’s own Active After School program, will benefit youth across the Northwest Territories and improve opportunities in the after-school time period.”

Canadian Tire is the founding member of ACTIVE AT SCHOOL, a partnership of more than 80 influential sport, wellness and health organizations from across Canada. Launched in 2013, the initiative supports Canada’s provincial and territorial governments in their goal to reverse the trend of inactivity among Canadian youth.

“We are proud to partner with Minister McLeod to help get all 50 schools and over 8,500 students across the Northwest Territories active for 60-minutes every day,” said Landon French, Vice-President, Community Relations, Canadian Tire Corporation. “Through ACTIVE AT SCHOOL, Canadian Tire will work with local government to build on existing programs to provide kids with the opportunity to develop essential life skills like teamwork and leadership through quality, physical activity.”

Part of the Healthy Choices Framework, the Active After School program supports schools, and community organizations that work with schools, to create or expand on programs that get school-aged children and youth physically active. The funding and materials provided by ACTIVE AT SCHOOL will help expand these programs and provide enhanced opportunities for youth in the Northwest Territories.

To learn more about the Active After School program visit www.maca.gov.nt.ca and for ACTIVE AT SCHOOL, www.activeatschool.ca.

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