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Camp takes youth to roots on the land
Too many young people 'struggle with cultural identity,' says leader

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Monday, August 24, 2015

What is an Inuk? With modern fashion, entertainment and lifestyle surrounding them and traditional ways seemingly fading in the rear view mirror, many Nunavummiut youth struggle to find their identity.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jennifer Kilabuk and Margaret Sikkinerk had a big haul clamming. Kilabuk wanted to give back to today's youth the experiences she received when she was younger. - photos courtesy of Jennifer Kilabuk

Jennifer Kilabuk knows that battle well, and it's something she's intent on helping young people work through today.

She organized and led a youth empowerment camp on the land in Iqaluit. Two days of workshops preceded three days on the land. The topic at hand was "What is an Inuk?"

"A lot of youth these days struggle with cultural identity, or just identity in themselves," said Kilabuk. "They're stuck between the modern and the traditional ways. How can you be traditional while living in a modern lifestyle? How do you keep your tradition and your culture and practise it if you have to work or go to school and you're wearing the latest fashion?

It's difficult to balance the two worlds - Inuk and qallunaat. Having pride in your culture helps get through tough teenage years, said Kilabuk.

"We want these youth to be happy to be Inuk. Nowadays it seems like the traditional is clashing with modern technology. Kids would rather be on the Internet than go out camping."

After two days of workshops, Kilabuk and a group of elders and helpers brought about a dozen youth on a three-day camping trip. They travelled by boat to Aullachivik, in the mountains across the water from the city.

They spent their time hunting seals, digging for clams, having a bonfire under the Northern lights, talking, laughing, healing and connecting.

"It was nice to see some of them open up out there," said Kilabuk.

"A lot of them were really happy to just get away from the town. A lot of the youth I brought, they don't live very easy lives, and that's kind of the reason we were talking about healing and how to cope with life."

Some shy youth opened up as the trip went on. Elders taught them skills and on Sunday the group held a makeshift church service to discuss healing.

"We shared a lot of laughs, we cried, we just had an amazing time out there," said Kilabuk.

This is the second camp Kilabuk has run, and she hopes to make it an annual event. Giving youth these opportunities is important to her because of the impact similar ventures had on her younger self.

"The reason why I'm so passionate about youth empowerment, Inuit pride and trying to engage youth in cultural activities is because I was in programs like those myself and I feel that I've grown a lot from that and I want to give back," said Kilabuk.

"I want to give to the youth what others gave to me in hopes that they gain pride in their own culture and carry on what I'm doing when they're my age, to keep it a full circle."

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