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Indigenous youth graduate from first ever Warrior Program

“It definitely boosted my confidence level,” says one participant.

16-year-old Dayton Hummel says he would like to be an engineer or millwright someday (CHONfm/Dylan MacNeil).

Over the weekend, 10 Indigenous youth graduated from Yukon First Nation Wildfire’s first ever Warrior Program.


The program aims to teach young people general employment skills and help them overcome barriers to getting a job.


The Warrior Program helps participants set up basic life necessities like photo IDs, bank accounts, and SIN numbers, while coaching them on things like punctuality and employee expectations.


It also connects youth with employers in different fields by bringing them on worksite visits, in hopes of inspiring them to pick a career path.


Tara Goodwin-Chief with Yukon First Nations Wildfire says when the program started up on February 28, the kids were a little bit shy.


“The first day was working on team building skills, getting WHMIS done, getting first aid done, talking amongst each other and intermingling. Some of them already knew each other, which is great, but to be in a bigger group you can really see at the very beginning [they were] being shy and quite and a little bit reserved, where as now they’re talking more and more,” says Goodwin-Chief.


“Being youth is a tough time in your life”

Participants learned about welding from the team at Mobile Maintenance and NexGen Mechanical (photo Yukon First Nations Wildfire Facebook page).


Yukon First Nation Wildfire CEO Chad Thomas says they decided to start up the program because there is a need to support young people.


“One of the fastest growing demographics in the north is First Nations youth and we need to help them be successful,” says Thomas.


“We’re also talking about a very hard time that our youth have been going through for the past few years with the opioid crisis and mental health issues and we’re looking at statistics that we’re seeing now a days that are just not really something that anybody is happy about or okay with. So, I think that we need to do what ever we can,” Thomas continues.


“Being youth is a tough time in your life. You have all these options ahead of you,” Thomas adds.


Meet the warriors

18-year-olds Marilee Trudeau (left) and Shayla Dawson (right) pose for a photo at the Warrior Program graduation ceremony (CHONfm/Dylan MacNeil).


16-year-old Dayton Hummel from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun says his favourite part of the program was learning more about mechanics, something he has been interested in since he was little.


“Ever since I was young, I’ve been working on machines and fixing them. Whether it be for my family or people around town, I just have been really in to it,” says Hummel.


“It definitely boosted my confidence level,” adds Hummel.


18-year-old Shayla Dawson of Liard First Nation says she loved visiting big rig shops and she might want to be a trucker someday.


“I met a few women who were truck drivers previously and it really made me realize that I can do it too,” says Dawson.


18-year-old Marilee Trudeau of Stellat’en First Nation in Fraser Lake, British Columbia says learning about various trades piqued her interest.


“During this program I realized that I really like the construction or welding and mining industries. Hearing that there’s a lot of women getting in to these careers, it’s pretty cool and inspirational,” says Trudeau.


Related – New agreement between Yukon First Nations Wildfire and government builds on relationship of reconciliation – February 24, 2022


The young warriors completed the course on Saturday with a graduation ceremony at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse. Yukon First Nations Wildfire says this year’s program was just a pilot and now they hope to continue for years to come.


Published Mar 14, 2022.

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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