Aboriginal Next Steps: Nisga'a

Youth participant quotes:

What did you learn at today's event?

"Everything I need to know to help my community."

What I will do with what I learned today:

"Help my community"

Adult participant quote:

What did you like most about today's event?

"Seeing students being active in the workshop"

Nisga'a's youth came together for creative community action on September 30th, 2008. Originally, they chose four Action Planning Groups: 1) Substance Use & Abuse; 2) Marginalized (street-involved youth; 3) Sexual Health and, 4) Physical & Emotional Health. After developing their action plans, they organized themselves into the first three topics to create the films.

The Nisga'a Nation is represented by four Villages: Gitlakdamix (New Aiyansh), Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City), Laxgalts'ap (Greenville), and Gingoix (Kincolith) found in the Nass River valley of northwestern British Columbia. Students from the four communities attend Nisga'a Elementary Secondary School (NESS), which is located in the Village of New Aiyansh.

They works so well together! They were excellent at listening to each other's ideas and including everyone in the process. It was obvious that community well-being was very important to them. The youth were also committed to providing more options for youth through job training, affordable housing, travel and education.

Special thanks to Anna Soole from our partnering organization, Healing Our Spirit for joining us and providing additonal information, such as highlighting the connection between substance use/abuse and HIV/HCV (Hepatitis C).

The Film Premiere was hosted at the Auditorium in New Aiyansh. A special thank you to Paul Mercer / Nisga'a Lisims Government for providing the meal and to all the adults who shared their words of encouragement and support to their young people.

Group 1: Marginalized / Street-involved Youth

Against the Odds: A profile of marginalized and street-involved youth in BC (2007) was a study conducted in nine communities across BC. The youth who participated in this survey reside at the margins of our society. Among these youth, Aboriginal youth are over-represented (an increase from 36% in 2000 to 57%). Several youth commented that they recognized their street family as more supportive than their original or biological family, and were able to report strong connections and ties with the surrogate families they had created. Among these marginalized youth, alcohol and drugs are sometimes used as a way of coping with stress and violence; to manage mental health symptoms, or to numb the pain from trauma and/or loss. Since youth in this survey reported much higher exposure to violence, abuse and loss than youth in the general population, it is not surprising that they also reported higher rates of substance use. Youth who reported higher levels of family connected were 60% less likely to attempt suicide or self-harm.

This thoughtful group made a film that clearly articulates what youth need

Research to Action Plan:

  • Our community goal is...Provide opportunities for marginalized youth in Nisga's.
  • Describe what you would do...
    1. Job opportunities
    2. Education
    3. Extra curricular activities
    4. Fast food
    5. Facilitators
    6. Travel opportunities
    7. Recreation centre (multi-purpose facilities)
    8. Cultural events in & of communities
    9. Community gatherings


  • William Moore
  • Oliver McNeil Jr.3
  • Vincent Robinson
  • Lyndon Davis
  • Trevor Robinson Jr.
  • Lorne Ryan


Group 2: Sexual Health

The percentage of sexually active Aboriginal students who practice safe sex increased significantly in the past decade. In 2003, approximately 67% reported using a condom the last time they had sex (up from 54% in 1992). In addition to preventing pregnancy, condoms protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sexual activity among Aboriginal students has declined significantly over the past decade (from 53% in 1992 to 36% in 2003). This group utilized this opportunity to create a clear message for sexually active youth.

Research to Action Plan:

  • Our community goal is...Increase condom use
  • If we had up to $5000, our activity/project would be Provide protection and workshops
  • Describe what you would do...Prevention and provide opportunties for youth to do other activites, such as Disneyland six flags, sports, money for charity, games, update weight room, dinner & a movie
  • Who/What would you need to get involved? Youth!

"Knocked Up"

  • Grace Moore
  • Katrina Stevens
  • Miranda Stephans
  • Alfred Stewart
  • Steven Morgan
  • Tyler Seymour

Group 3: Physical & Emotional Health

McCreary and other research has identified protective factors that increase the likelihood of health development for youth. In some studies, protective factors appear to reduce the likelihood that young people will engage in risky behaviours or experience negative outcomes, even in the presence of risk factors, such as depression and/or substance abuse. The most significant protective factors for vulnerable teens include positive relationships in key areas:

  • Connectedness to their families and people at school
  • Having someone in their family they can talk to about problems
  • Having friends with healthy attitudes towards risky behaviours

This group recommended a holistic approach to youth health, one that includes more opportunties for the community as a whole.

Research to Action Plan:

  • Our community goal is...Keep youth healthly.
  • If we had up to $5000, our activity/project would be
      Help youth stay in school and graduate
  • Describe what you would do...
  • Job training
  • affordable housing
  • support with local school
  • travel

Group 4: Substance Use & Abuse

This groups was motivated to create a message about substance abuse. They were inspired by research that indicates fewer Aboriginal youth are drinking alcohol and the percentage of Aborignal youth every trying alcohol has declined. However, among youth who drink alcohol, binge drinknig has not decreased over the past decade. Research has also shown that exposure to alcohol and other drugs at an early age increases the liklihood of later substance abuse problems. 
With this in mind, they combined forces with the Physical & Emotional Health group to ask you the question: Do you want a monkey on your back?

Research to Action Plan:

  • Our community goal is...Reduce substance use
  • If we had up to $5000, our activity/project would beCreate a youth specific space; adults allowed only by invitation
  • Describe what you would do...Dances, games, music studio, basketball, football, talent contest, theatre, pool table.

"Do you want the monkey..."

  • Chris Haizimsque
  • Marie McKay
  • Travis McIntyre
  • Patricial McKay
  • Amber McKay
  • Theo Jack
  • Justin Gurney
  • Cali Peal-Barton