On Nov. 15, eight young men and women celebrated graduating from the Walk Tall youth program developed and run by Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS).
Carrier Sekani Family Services serves 11 First Nations, the Burns Lake Band, Cheslatta Carrier Nation, Lake Babine Nation, Nadleh Whut’en, Nee Tahi Buhn Band, Saik’uz First Nation, Skin Tyee Band, Stellat’en First Nation, Takla Lake First Nation, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, and Yekooche First Nation.
The CSFS Walk Tall youth program offers cultural programs, recreational programs, activities and workshops throughout the year. It is free and open to all ages who are placed into on of two, gender specific, age groups, 12 to 15 and 16 to 20.
The Walk Tall program originated in Prince George in 2010 but was recently able to secure funding to include a program in Burns Lake. Preston Guno, Program Manager for Burns Lake and Prince George, describes the program as one that, “[B]rings Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth out to seven day culture camps. In these culture camps, we incorporate a Rites of Passage approach.”
The event in Burns Lake was attended by many First Nations and non First Nations. Mayor Luke Strimbold, St. Sgt. Grant MacDonald and Chief Albert Gerow were also on hand to support the program.
“Last night’s Bah’lat was an opportunity for Carrier Sekani Family Services to publicly acknowledge this important accomplishment of completing camps and Rites of Passage for our youth,” said Guno.
Mary Teegee, Director of Child and Family Services for CSFS, was unable to attend the ceremony, but Guno read from a letter she had prepared for the occasion. “By your commitment to take part in the culture camp and to be a part of the Walk Tall program, you are showing your family, your friends and your people that you are leaders,” Teegee said. “Too many times we only hear negative things about who we are as indigenous people and who you are as youth – well today, I can assure you that you can stand up proud and walk tall because you showed them all how great you are as Carrier youth.”