It didn’t take us long to say  “Yes!”  to participate in the First Nations ‘Strength Within Circle’ Youth Wellness Gathering this summer.  The cultural event was co-hosted by Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Our Voices – a collective of inspired young indigenous leaders.


The sun was shining Saturday morning as Hospice volunteer extraordinaire Joshua Lesage and I drove to the Jackson Lake Healing Camp just outside Whitehorse.  Although many challenging topics were explored the day before, the feeling when we arrived was relaxed and there were lots of friendly, smiling faces.

Josh and Anne
Joshua Lesage and Anne Macaire

Some of the themes of the gathering included:  Connection to Culture, Identity & Spirit, Suicide Awareness & Prevention, Health & Wellness, Trauma & Grieving and Lateral Violence.  Throughout the 3 days, the large group of over 200 gathered in the big tent to hear speakers and then broke out into smaller workshops.

Joshua and I set up shop in one of the small tents and welcomed about 14 youth to our talk on Loss & Grief.  To start, we gave each participant a ‘Feelie Heart’ kit and they were invited to sew their own ‘Feelie Hearts’ while listening to our stories and talk about the Roue de deuil – the journey we travel through loss.

We talked about the importance of expressing our grief and mourning while finding comfort and solace.  Through a slide presentation we showed images of ways we can do this accompanied by the beautiful song, Crows Call, written by Beth Stupple, in memory her friends that had died in a house fire.

These are not easy topics but by coming together in community we realize we are all in this together, finding the strength and support to not only heal but to thrive.

Anne Macaire, Counsellor, Hospice Yukon