The ucalgarycares 2018 – Indigenous Leadership and Engagement Yukon trip far exceeded my expectations in so many ways. This trip was a personal one because the main reason I wanted to go was to learn more about Indigenous communities in hopes that it would build my courage enough to meet my birth father for the first time. My father is Indigenous and lives on a reserve in Manitoba. I hoped that I could learn more about Indigeneity and how Indigenous communities function together, and experience how it would feel to be a stranger in a new place. I was amazed to see how each community we visited greeted us with open arms and kindness; the group blended well with everyone as every person was so inclusive and always put a smile on every face we crossed, and we made every place we went feel like its own small community.
At times, the volunteer work was more than we expected, but it always seemed to fly by with such great company! Some volunteering tasks were difficult, but always rewarding. For example, we weeded and planted in the community garden for a family who was recently devastated by a house fire, and an elderly gentleman who could no longer take care of his garden. It was amazing to step back after and visually see a difference. I was a part of the group who installed signs for the Kluane Lake Research Station along the highway. It was a great feeling to know that we helped with something so useful. Everyone will easily find the station now. The group always left things better than they found it!
I’m so grateful for all the amazing, honest, weird (in the most beautiful and pure way), and engaging conversations that the group had. They have helped me grow and further fuelled my passions. It was such a beautiful empowering experience to be with an almost all female group (Andrew, you are amazing). I will be honest, I was worried about being in a group with so many women, but I was wrong to worry… every single person was so strong, passionate, uniquely brilliant, and beyond hilarious!
Not only did I learn so much about every community we went to, I was able to create my own. I cherish the friendships that I built on this trip. In just 12 days, I grew more than I had ever anticipated, mentally and, unfortunately, physically (I ain’t lying… the food was absolutely to die for)!
Among the many valuable things I learned is I believe this trip brought truth to this quote by Donald H. McGannon: “Leadership is action, not position.” Everyone was a leader in the Yukon!