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Aboriginal youth unprepared for city life: study

Report recommends steps to overcome ‘culture shock’

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“Many of these views were at odds with reality to such a degree that they caused serious problems for youth once they got to their destination,” the report says.

This is a situation that the Xaxli’p First Nation, located near Lillooet, has tried to avoid.

Bobby Watkinson, a band councillor in charge of the youth portfolio, told Pique that the band organizes summer programs that send youth on trips into Vancouver and Kamloops.

“When I was a kid I rarely went to the city,” he said. “But the kids these days, in the youth programs, they go on trips, go to the city, they get to go out there a lot more than we ever did.

“They take them on trips all the time, keeps the kids busy all summer.”

Watkinson said the effect of those trips is that youth from the Xaxli’p band are becoming “a lot more aware” of the city.

He added that there aren’t enough youth moving from the Xaxli’p reserve to the cities, but he said that a lack of job opportunities near the community is driving more youth to urban areas than a decade ago.

“Culture shock… if you asked me 10 years ago, it would have been a major factor,” he said. “It’s not actually as much of a shock (today) because a lot more youth are getting to the city these days than they ever did before.

“There’s a little more awareness that they have to stay in school if they want to get a decent job these days. It’s not like it used to be, where you could just go find a job anywhere.”

Most youth in the study said they always intended to move to the city, citing factors such as dysfunctional families and difficult living conditions in reserve communities. The report says that youth see moving to the city as the “only way of escaping.”

The report also cites “nepotism” in the governance system on First Nation communities as a reason for leaving reserves. It says that those who have family members in powerful positions can benefit when economic resources are distributed, but families outside of the governance circle can suffer.