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'Someday you will sit where I am': Elders say youth are the future at Tlicho assembly

Tlicho elders stressed the need for education at the 2019 annual Tlicho gathering and assembly in Gameti, N.W.T.

Elders advise Tlicho leadership to ensure the next generation would be ready replacements

The role of youth as the future of the Tlicho government was a focus for elders who spoke on the last day of the annual gathering and assembly in Gameti, N.W.T. (Walter Strong/CBC)

On Thursday, the final day of this summer's Tlicho Assembly in Gameti, a panel of elders took turns advising 14 chiefs and assembly members from Behchoko, Whati, Wekweeti, and Gameti.

Elders took the opportunity to remind the Tlicho chiefs and assembly members that their days were numbered — the youth would some day replace them in leadership positions.

Tlicho elder Jimmy Nitsiza said Tlicho youth must be educated and made ready to take over leadership of the Tlicho government. (Walter Strong/CBC)

"Someday you will sit where I am," said Jimmy Nitsiza in Tlicho through a translator. "You will be elders and the youth will replace you."

Other elders stressed the need for Tlicho youth to finish high school and go on to post-secondary education, for the sake of strong future leadership.

Young and old warm drums in anticipation of the arrival of paddlers who made the 15-day trek by canoe over water and many portages to the assembly in Gameti. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty, who is also a Tlicho citizen, said the Tlicho government has been making strides in helping its youth to go on to post-secondary studies.

He said when the Tlicho government began its scholarship program in 1998, there were only a "handful" of Tlicho students in post-secondary education programs. Last year there were more than 100, he said.

"A lot of them have graduated post-secondary as well," said Lafferty. "Now we see [them] slowly coming back to our region … to work for the Tlicho government, community government, or GNWT in the community or other organizations in the communities."

Next year's annual gathering is scheduled to be held in Wekweeti.

Tlicho youth and elders play handgames together in Gameti during the 2019 annual assembly. (Walter Strong/CBC)