Our Story Begins

Taking flight and on the road again. Anticipation drew closer as we got our first aerial glimpse of the beautiful Yukon landscape. Upon arriving at the Arctic Institute of North America (AINA) by van, we are welcomed by Sian and AINA community members.

Creating community through science. During Sian’s introduction to the institute, she spoke of the value of connecting to the land and proposed that AINA’s projects do so while building community. She also spoke about how Canada appears uninterested in it’s own natural history and culture and she would like more engagement in discovering our own narrative. We have found AINA to be a community space where people gather to eat, connect and share stories along with individual research goals. The day ended with an invitation to read an article by Jeannette Armstrong.

“Sharing one skin,” a shared emotional response. The next day, our workshop on Understanding Community began with this definition of community provided by Armstrong. Within our conversation, the value of narrative became a common thread. We discussed the definitions of community and what creates a healthy or unhealthy one. One such aspect of healthy communities involved the revitalization of shared culture, language and narrative.

“You have to hear the language.” The themes of shared culture, language and narrative were reiterated by two members of the Kluane Burwash Landing community, Sandy and Mary Jane. Recently, the community came together for a potlatch which involves the two moieties (Crow and Wolf, which are passed down matrilineally) respecting the life and passing of a Crow Elder. A potlatch is held one year after the funeral of a community member where the respective moiety hires members of the other moiety and in the end gifts are offered. Afterwards, Mary Jane shared her work on revitalizing the local language through the development of an audio archive on the Kluane First Nations (KFN) website.

“Grandmas to spare.” When asked to reflect on the differences between KFN and Calgary later that day, the group voiced resounding support for KFN’s sense of community, willingness to ask and receive care, being rooted in the land, it’s history, collective narrative and having access to and valuing elders. As Sandy quotes “there is land, food, family and grandmas to spare.”

-Emily & Nuri

This entry was posted in Indigenous Leadership, Summer Term 2014, Yukon. Bookmark the permalink.

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