A talent show took place during last year's Gathering Our Voices. (BCAAFC photo)

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PORT ALBERNI — This year’s Gathering Our Voices (GOV) brought hundreds of youth from across Canada to gather in Hupačasath and Teshaht First Nation traditional territory. The event, which runs from March 19-22, is hosted by the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, the Provincial Youth Aboriginal Council and the Port Alberni Friendship Centre, stated the association’s news update.

“The purpose of the event,” executive director of the association Leslie Varley said, “is to unite youth throughout the country in learning, healing and sharing, and to provide tools, resources and knowledge the youth can bring back to their communities.” GOV’s focus this year is on Indigenous youth leadership training.

Every year GOV is hosted by a different friendship centre within B.C. This year, the Hupačasath and Teshaht First Nations have welcomed hundreds of guests to their territory so they can share their culture.

So far, the association has hosted 16 GOVs, which had humble beginnings of just over a hundred delegates – many of which were from Prince George, Nanaimo, Vancouver, Kamloops, Victoria, Kelowna, Prince Rupert, Richmond, and Penticton – who attended the annual event. Now, the event has “grown immensely,” Varley continued, much of which was due to the support from delegates, volunteers, chaperones, facilitators, and host communities.

Registration, which opened last summer, maxed out within an hour, the association also noted. “This overwhelming response of support serves to reinforce the need for a provincial forum where Indigenous Youth can come together,” the news update stated, having also mentioned that it could mean “positive changes in their (youth’s) lives and in their communities.”

The event has scheduled seven facilitators – a keynote speaker, three panelists, those opening and closing ceremonies, and those involved in putting on the dance.

“We raise our hands and thank you for your continued support as we grow together,” Varley said.

More to come.