The Youth Warrior Program: how a First Nations group helps youth develop a brotherhood

“The world seems a little dull when you’re only just in your mind,” said a member of the group
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When he was just 15 years old, Hayden Seitcher found himself spending a lot of time on his own in his room in Ty-Histanis.

The community of Ty-Histanis is home to approximately 375 people and is located about 25 km from the Tofino-Ucluelet junction in British Columbia.

One day, Seitcher received an invitation from a friend to join the Youth Warrior Program, which first started out as a men’s group over six years ago.

The group was meant to foster a brotherhood and provide a safe space for boys and men to express themselves and be vulnerable, said Seitcher.

Although he didn’t want to go at first as he preferred to be alone, he ultimately gave in and attended his first meeting with the group. “The world seems a little dull when you’re only just in your mind,” Seitcher said.

Fast forward to four and a half years later and Seitcher is happy that he went to that first meeting as he said it impacted him in a positive way.

“It helped me be more vocal and see other perspectives in life,” he said. “The group taught me that it’s ok to be happy, it’s ok to be vulnerable, and it’s ok to want to take care of yourself.”

Before COVID-19 struck, the group had weekly meet-ups where they would interact and participate in various activities. They were taught how to step out of their comfort zone, become vulnerable, and learn new things.

The program took its members on camping trips each month, teaching them to connect with nature and learn more about their culture.

To Seitcher, the program was always like an outlet. “It helped me with my confidence and it taught me more about myself.”

The Youth Warriors Program pictured in 2019 with all of its members and mentors in 2019. The group was going to a chainsaw training course. Seitcher is picture in the bottom right corner.
(Photo: courtesy of Hayden Seitcher).

When Seitcher realized the importance of the group, he became a youth leader and tried to find more youth to join the program through word-of-mouth.

“It’s really easy to be down when you’re just in your head” he said. His goal is to help youth who are struggling or going down the wrong path by connecting them to a brotherhood in which they could have a safe place to be themselves.

According to a Toronto Star article, Ricardo Manmohan founded the program with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation as the Hitacu Warriors. Since then, it was expanded to five other Nuu-chah-nulth nations, including Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h’ , Tseshaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

The group now has over 50 young men throughout five nations, according to the Star article.

When the global pandemic hit, the program had to change the way it functioned. They were no longer allowed to meet up in-person due to health guidelines. 

“We are kind of just laying low for now. We are waiting for our Nation to allow us to start gathering again” said Seitcher.

Having to stay indoors most of the time has impacted Seitcher in a negative way. “It’s made me more anti-social and I’ve stopped doing a lot of my healthy routines of going outside and I’ve been taking care of myself less” he said.

Although they are still present via social media, it’s just not the same as meeting in person for Seitcher. He hopes the guidelines will be lifted soon and that the program can once again gather in person.

Seitcher said he hopes to become a coordinator in the program in the future.

 

Featured Image: courtesy of Melissa Renwick/Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

/ Wiki Production Code: A0539

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