Indigenous-led youth retreat to foster connections and support mental wellness

Press Release

March 15, 2023

This is a joint news release between the Government of Yukon and the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation.

From March 6 to 10, 2023, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation and the Government of Yukon hosted an Indigenous-led by-youth-for-youth retreat at the Sky High Wilderness Ranch outside of Whitehorse.

The retreat was designed for young adults between the ages of 19 and 35 who are working in, or interested in working in, health, wellness, heritage, and/or culture for future generations. Youth from First Nations and communities across the territory were invited to participate.

The purpose of the retreat was to create a gentle and supportive space for all participants to connect and feel a sense of belonging to each other and to the important work they do in their communities. Throughout the retreat, attendees participated in a variety of activities such as dog sledding, traditional medicine, talking circles, medicine walks, self-care and a variety of ceremonies.

The event was hosted by five young leaders from the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation’s Wellness Department. Five young Indigenous leaders from across Canada, who created A Life Promotion Toolkit by Indigenous Youth and who are connected to the Thunderbird Partnership and the We Matter Campaign, were also invited to share their knowledge and offer sessions. Elder Ed Connors from the Kahnawake Mohawk First Nation and Elder Diane Smith from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation offered guidance and support to the group.

The retreat was part of the Nihè dinch’è jì’ wë̀ tä̀ zul (It is Better When You are With Us) initiative that uses a life promotion lens to address mental wellness, suicide prevention, substance use and more. A life promotion approach, as outlined in A Life Promotion Toolkit by Indigenous Youth, seeks to restore hope, belonging, meaning and purpose by connecting to land, self, community and spirituality.

Our government is committed to supporting the mental health and wellness of youth and all Yukoners. This retreat was an incredible opportunity for these young adults to build pride, belonging and connection with each other, the land and their future. I commend Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation for their leadership in organizing this event and providing a supportive space for young adults from across the territory to connect.

Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee

Our Elders and Citizens cannot sum up healing in any better way, that healing comes from the land. We are pleased that our Youth Enhancement Program and Wellness Department continue to partner with Yukon Government, Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, Roots of Hope initiative and others to assist our youth on a path of healing, healthy living, self-worth as we are here for them and look forward to them grow into future leaders.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation Hähké/Chief Roberta Joseph

Quick facts

  • In January 2023, the hosts invited First Nations partners across the territory to nominate two young adults from their community to attend the retreat.
  • Two certified safety and First Aid respondents were on site for the duration of the event to ensure the safety of all participants.


Renée Francoeur
Cabinet Communications

Thibaut Rondel
Communications, Health and Social Services

Erin McQuaig
Wellness Programs & Services Manager, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation
867-993-7100, ext 148


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