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  • Western Arctic Youth Collective

Reflections: Arsaniq Deer

Reflections is a series of testimonials and stories from the northern youth who have participated in or contributed to our work and programming.

Tending to the qulliq (Inuit traditional oil lamp) at a youth gathering in Spring 2022. (Photo: Tate Juniper)

The Western Arctic Youth Collective has changed my life in so many ways.

The first youth gathering I attended was a trapping camp in Aklavik in 2020. I never thought after that gathering I’d be able to attend other gatherings that helped me grow in my culture and life skills.

WAYC played a big role in my sobriety, it has been over a year since I became sober. I attended the Mental Wellness Gathering in Inuvik in February 2022. I became inspired by 3 Indigenous men who shared their stories on their sobriety journey. At that point, I was already wanting to be sober. It seemed like a sign or a nudge to begin my sobriety journey. I am one year and 2 weeks sober.

These gatherings have helped me to open up about my life story and learn to be vulnerable in these safe spaces. It’s been a journey of growth and healing these past couple of years with attending these youth events. In these gatherings we give and receive, it’s always so beautiful to witness and be a part of a new community and the friendships we form.

These past couple of months specifically have changed my life again.

Arsaniq drawing tattoos on Youth in Paulatuk during the shooting of a

N’we Jinan video (Photo: Kim Wapachee-McDougall).

WAYC brought me on a Northwest Territories tour to Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour, and Paulatuk. I still can’t believe I experienced these beautiful communities and the people in them. Each community was unique and amazing in their own way with my experience. My heart has been so full and overflowing.

Being part of this reclamation of our culture of Inuit tattooing and witnessing a beautiful revitalization has been the most amazing thing that’s ever happened since I began my tattooing journey. I come from Nunavik, where I don’t get to witness that in my home communities. I have not taken my experiences for granted. Our culture is so healing, every part of it. The youth in these communities need more of these gatherings. It has been so incredibly healing for me in my Inuk identity. I know it has been healing for everyone else who attends these gatherings, I hear over and over how healing and powerful it is.

I wish every young Inuk can experience what I experience.

Tunnitt Kakinniit (Inuit Tattoos) knowledge sharing with Arsaniq at

BDene Adventures Camp in Yellowknife. (Photo: Monica Loreen Dillon)

WAYC has helped me with my sobriety, WAYC has helped me reach my goals in life and has brought me to places I have never even dreamed of. It has been a privilege and honour. I’m so grateful for Alyssa and the team. They are exactly what I needed as a teen, and even now.

Arsaniq drew tattoos on the kids with a pen and they loved it! Middle Lake, Sachs Harbour. (Photo: Jason Lau, Inuvialuit Communications Society)

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