Houston made a high-profile team among the 1,600 youth at the 2015 Gathering Our Voices Conference.
Houston’s DJ Lou-D (Leon Erickson) started producing music two years ago, and brought down the house at the recent Aboriginal youth conference in Prince George.
His performance at the talent show broke the audience into a huge dance party, which included a non-violent mosh pit.
The next day, he was invited on stage with DJ Oshow, and mixed beats for the conference-wide dance at the end of the event.
“It’s a big confidence boost,” said Leon.
“With all the positive energy, you just forget everything.”
The goal of the Gathering Our Voices conference is to unite the Canadian Aboriginal youth in learning, healing and sharing and to give them tangible tools, resources and knowledge to take home.
Seven Houston youth and two chaperones from the connections program at the Houston Dze L Kant Friendship Centre attended.
Of the 1,600 participants, Houston’s Mervin Robinson received an Honourary Youth Award.
The award recognized him for his honourable lifestyle and for overcoming challenges to graduate this year with others his age.
Houston’s youth also had the honour of presenting a totem pole to the conference during closing ceremonies.
The totem pole was carved by youth at the conference and donated to the Prince George Friendship Centre as thanks for hosting the event.
Leon said the conference included lots of cultural learning and a big emphasis on meeting new people.
“It was three days of amazing positive energy everywhere you go,” he said.
Timothy Tiljoe says he was impressed to see all the people who came from different nations across the country.
“It was quite surprising, the amount of people that travelled from different nations to be together and learn each others ways,” he said.
For Trystan Small, the people and atmosphere were the best part.
“Everybody got along. It didn’t matter what different colour skin you were or where in country you came from. Everyone got along, everyone interacted with everyone.”
Darren MacDonald, Connections project leader with the Houston Friendship Centre, says it was really neat to see the support between youth. At the talent show, the audience cheered everyone through mistakes and technical issues.
“It’s like no other environment I’ve ever been in,” MacDonald said.
“There are prayers and protection from elders all over Canada, and I believe those prayers are very, very powerful… There is something unique about that conference.”
MacDonald says his highlight was seeing the Houston guys come together as a group.
Since Leon and Mervin had been to previous conferences, MacDonald said he enjoyed seeing them step up and show leadership.
Leon is a self-defined peace-activist, and he says the conference helped shape his views on what peace actually looks like.
“It gives me a better view on by beliefs and what I try to push for in the world,” he said.
The youth attended workshops on carving, graffiti, learning from elders, and learning social laws such as love and humility that have been passed down through generations.
Koby Bowes says his favourite part of the conference was a workshop on parkour, a sport where people run, jump and climb through an area and over obstacles really fast.
“I knew a lot of the stuff they were teaching me, I had just never done it before,” Koby said.
“It was really fun. I like parkour, and it was easy for me.”
For Austin Michell, Mervin and Leon, the best part was the dance.
Leon says producing music and performing at these conference has changed him.
His first performance was last year in Vancouver in front of over 2,000 youth.
“I used to be super, super shy, and then doing those [performances], that’s basically where all that disappeared,” he said.
“I love being onstage. I was born for it.”
The group thanks New Relationship Trust Fund, All Nations Soccer League, Huckleberry Mine, Northern Society for Domestic Peace and the Bulkley Valley Credit Union for their funding and support.