By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—Lake Huron Region youth recently provided assistance at Youth Social Infrastructure (YSI) Collaborative’s Art of Hosting Facilitation Training for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Youth and Adult Allies in Thunder Bay.
“It was really great to see new faces and new places,” says Jon Cada, a youth from Mississauga #8 and member of YSI Collaborative’s Algoma group. “Bringing that work to Thunder Bay has been extremely exciting. Over the last year, we’ve been talking about it and to see the first bringing together of people, it’s always wonderful to see how connections are being developed and how work is being organized. That emotion and truth and reconciliation work will continue to develop as we move forward.”
Cada says the YSI Collaborative Algoma group was started in 2013.
“We’ve been kind of prototyping what it’s like to work in a network that is supportive of one another, is aware of what eachothers’ needs are in the community, and how we can come together and connect and bridge some of those social gaps around skill sets, such as how to start up a project, how to manage it, and how to report on it,” Cada says.
The gathering was held from Dec. 9-11 at the NorWester Hotel and Conference Centre to bring youth together from across Ontario to build their skills through the use of YSI Collaborative’s Art of Hosting toolkit. About 54 people from across the province, including four Elders, attended the gathering.
Candace Bay Neveau, a youth from Serpent River and a member of YSI Collaborative’s Algoma group, says the group changed her life as an Anishinaabe person.
“A lot of their practices emphasize oral history and oral practices,” Neveau says. “It’s not just your traditional writing things down type of power point conference. It’s like leading through art and using art to look at how we are conversing, to find deeper meaning into how we are holding conversations.”
Neveau says it is important to centre Indigenous voices.
“Indigenous voices need to be heard when it comes to thinking how are we developing things because we are stewards of the land and we advocate for that, advocate for thinking about when we are ripping out rocks and not considering the water,” Neveau says. “We’re that voice of the land so it is really important to centre Indigenous world view.”
Quinn Meawasige, a youth from Serpent River and a member of YSI Collaborative’s Algoma group, says the gathering was an opportunity for participants to learn what hosting is about.
“When we bring anyone together, how do we cultivate ideas, how do we harvest good conversations and provide a good open and safe space,” Meawasige says. “This approach allows people to have a voice and everyone to be able to have an input into co-creating the solution and being able to collaboratively find solutions that will work for them, not just a top down approach.”
Meawasige says the highlight of the gathering for him was how the participants, many who did not know each other at the beginning, got to know each other over the three days.
“By the end of it, there [were] hugs all around,” Meawasige says. “We built relationships, we built networks. We want to be able to support young people and we recognize sometimes there is not always that space or those supports that are there, so by people who are passionate about it, we can get together and find ways to support our young people.”
Information on YSI Collaborative’s initiatives can be found online at: www.ysicollaborative.org.