The Na-Cho Nyak Dun (Big River People) annual youth conference was held earlier this month in Mayo, Yukon. Keynote presenters included chief executive of Te Papa Takaro o Te Arawa (TPTOT), Paora Te Hurihanganui and suicide prevention project leader for Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao, Michael Naera.
Both Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao and Te Papa Takaro o Te Arawa are providers within the Te Arawa Whānau Ora collective.
Paora was approached by the Na-Cho Nyak Dun to deliver presentations on mental health, addictions and suicide prevention,” he says.
“I was invited because of my role in Maori and indigenous suicide prevention with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Pikiao Trust as well as being a current board member of Te Papa Takaro o Te Arawa,” Michael says.
He shared the Turamarama Declaration, which was tabled at the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference in 2016.
“I spoke about the importance of the declaration as a tool for indigenous communities to discover their true potential in diminishing suicide, drugs, alcohol and self-harm in particular, growing youth leadership from a potential framework as oppose to a deficit model,” Michael says.
“That could mean looking at the risks that impact on small communities and in turn recognise cultural and contemporary protective factors in building hope.”
How we treat our bodies also impacted the relationship with wairua and mauri, he says.
“As such, tapping into the Māori / indigenous world for sustenance and wellbeing is key to a healthy mind and body. But at the end of the day, I asked the youth to implement the simple things in life such as talking over your issues with elders, parents etc.
A team of five spoke at the conference which included Cannan Tuhura of TPTOT,
Hariata Tai Rakena, traditional games specialist, and youth ambassadors Taonga Flavell and Dionne Bidois.
The other team members spoke about connection to whakapapa, whenua, and te taiao. They also ran workshops on traditional games and PATH planning (aspirational pathways). And on the final night we performed for an hour sharing our culture to the community of 400 people,” Michael says.
“My experience of attending this gathering is one of love, honour and respect to the people of Na-Cho Nyak Dun. Their manaakitanga was exceptional as they brought out their traditional foods, shared their stories, showcased their land, taught us their medicines, arts and crafts, and finally talked about their sovereignty as a nation. I returned home with a basket full of knowledge and gifts from the people of the land and I will be forever grateful for this.”