“We Belong Here” was a free youth leadership and basketball gathering for students grades 4-12. The three-day gathering was hosted by Juneau youth organizations, March 18-20, 2019.
We Belong Here participants ended the three day gathering in a talking circle and speaking Haida. For thirty minutes, Damen Bell-Holter spoke only in Haida to a group of 50 youth from across the region. Pinching his ears, the group said Gyuwáng hl stl'iit! in Haida.
Damen is the director of youth and community engagement for Sealaska. Since joining Sealaska in April 2018, he was talked with southeast youth in nearly every community letting them know that Sealaska believes in them and wants them to be successful. He worked with Juneau youth organizations for the We Belong Here gathering.
Workshops encouraged conversations around healthy eating, basketball fundamentals, native games and benefits of movement. For two and half days, youth were surrounded by role models and positive influences. “Our youth are capable of so much more than what we give them credit for,” said Bell-Holter. “The challenges we see in our communities, this generation will be the ones to change it. If we provide them with resources such as access to education or understanding how organizations like Sealaska or tribal governments work, we can prepare them to create the change that is needed.”
WE BELONG HERE PARTNERS
Goldbelt Heritage Foundation
Juneau School District, Indian Studies Sealaska
Tlingit & Haida Central Council
Zach Gordon Youth Center