When I applied to the Indigenous Leadership and Engagement (Yukon) program, I had the approach that all I would do is to sit amongst the elders and learn everything in that mode of teaching. I felt that because I wanted to pursue medicine, I would learn cultural competency. It is one thing to learn about cultural competency, indigeneity, and history in theory and it is another thing to learn from the First Nations people themselves. I felt that in order to be a good clinician, I needed to understand the intricate cultures of our First Nations people. With this mindset, I applied to the program.
When I did encounter the Yukon for the first time, I felt a feeling of isolation that I could never experience at its most blissful state anywhere else. The mountain glaciers, the beaches, the animals were incredibly attractive to me. For example, to be ‘within’ myself, I would go to the beach to collect rocks, which consisted of quartz and graphites. I took these rocks back to Calgary as souvenirs. What was most memorable was that I witnessed a mama bear and her two cubs for 5 minutes just swimming and playing in a lake. What a sight! I can’t imagine seeing this again. I felt an understanding of why the land is so important to our First Nations people. Why they fight for the land and live on the land. I felt how beautiful it was to be on this land, untouched and raw.
To engage in leadership was the crux of this trip and I experienced that with 12 other people. I painted a school with my new friends. I built a little greenhouse. I cleaned up dumps and found free things to take back to Calgary! One of the most remarkable teachings I had were from Grandpa Splash, a very robust man with a tiny stature who showed me a strong work ethic. Although he would never lose an opportunity to crack a joke, he did not lose focus with respect to his work. This resonated with me because the people in the area we were in were all incredibly hard working. I felt as though… I could be doing more. I met an elder who spoke so softly yet felt so strong in her voice. She taught me how to build myself with a calm demeanor and firm vocals.
This trip gave me much more than I could give it, simply based on the fact that I took so much away from it. My blog will not do justice to the richness of the Yukon. My friendships run deep with my new friends. My devotion towards advocating for the First Nations people runs deep. My love for the Yukon runs deep.
Until we meet again, land of the midnight sun,