The Kǫ̀ts’iìhtła  (“We Light the Fire”) project was a five day creative arts and music workshop for youth which ran from August 11-15th, 2014 in the community of Behchokǫ̀, NT with the aim of empowering youth to explore critical issues facing their community and their lives and to find solutions together using the arts.  This project was led by the Tlicho Community Action Research Team (CART) and the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research (ICHR) assisted with project activities and facilitated student support from the University of Toronto.  The project originally stemmed from the need to address high rates of suicide in northern Indigenous communities. While suicide prevention among youth was the original impetus for the project, the workshop took a strengths-based approach by focusing on empowering and building resiliency amongst youth using the creative arts. Furthermore, Kǫ̀ts’iìhtła was based on the premise that youth have ownership of the workshop and it’s outcomes and ownership to identify topics or issues they wanted to address based on what was important to them.  The objectives of Kǫ̀ts’iìhtła included: 1) building confidence and personal/artistic skills among youth participants, 2) connecting youth with one another and to positive role models, and 3) demonstrating to youth how art can be a way to express oneself and to deal with various issues in our lives and communities.

The overall goals of Kǫ̀ts’iìhtła are two-fold: to engage and empower youth to explore critical issues in their communities and lives and to find solutions together using creative arts (art as vehicle for social change), and to build resiliency amongst youth and promote healthy minds, bodies and spirits through the arts (art as vehicle for promoting healthier youth and communities).

Outcomes and Results

Overall, we found that youth participants had a positive experience participating in Kǫ̀ts’iìhtła because of 4 main factors: they developed new skills, had positive interactions with facilitators, found the workshop to be culturally safe and enjoyable, and used the arts to talk about community issues and visions for change

A report describing the Kotsiihtla project can be found here.

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Workshop facilitators included:

  • George Bailey, Filmaking
  • Charlotte Overvold, Visual Arts
  • Casey Koyczan, Music Production
  • Travis Mercedi, Music Production
  • Tiffany Harrington, Spoken Word
  • Sahar Fanian, Photography