Youth of the Yukon interview with Sheena Johns

Updated: Apr 3


Introduce yourself, where you’re from and where you are now:


My name is Sheena Johns, I am partly from the Yukon Territory and partly from Alberta but I currently live in Carcross, Yukon.


How did you come to live in the Yukon? Were you born here?


I was born in Whitehorse and lived all over Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon. I permanently moved back to the Yukon in 2012.


What do you think of life in the Yukon in general?


It is different from when I was a little kid. The winters are warmer now and Whitehorse is expanding too fast but it is still a friendly place to live.


How is your life here?


Very busy. I have 2 children and I am the Executive Manager of Carcross/Tagish First Nation. However, I have been Acting as the Executive Director for Carcross/Tagish First Nation since September. This position is the highest administration authority in the Government and I am the youngest person (I think) to be in this position. I have been working very hard at this job to show that the younger generation can be determined and handle very important business and should not be overlooked when making important decisions.


What do you think is the biggest downfall/problem for youth in the Yukon?


They are not taken seriously. Their emotions are usually tossed to the side. Parents addictions are being passed to the youth and they are now suffering from addictions. There is no proper alternate schooling for youth who do not fit into high school settings.



How would you like to see this issue being addressed?


The youth need to be taken seriously, their issues need to be addressed and solved. Their education needs to be taken seriously.


From a youth perspective, what do you think of the mental health services and access to youth services in the Yukon?


Horrible. My generation and the younger generation are suicidal and are taking their own lives, either through suicide or drugs and alcohol. These cries for help are not getting any attention. There is insufficient programming for troubled youth, there is not much job opportunities for these youth, all they have is drinking and drugs. There is also a stigma about counselling, youth feel that they are weak if they need to talk to someone and mental health services should promote healthy counselling etc.


What do you think of the education system in the Yukon?


First Nation students are constantly pushed through to the next grade just because they are older. Most FN students need to upgrade at the college before being able to get a diploma etc. It needs to go back to failing and redoing classes if they are not up to educational par. Every student has a right to proper education, if they need more time than so be it, do not graduate them just to push them through. It makes no sense to me.


What do you do in the Yukon? Go into jobs/hobbies/passions:


As I stated before I work for my First Nation. My permanent position is the Executive Manager for the Governance Department of Carcross/Tagish First Nation. My hobbies are spending time with my children, reading, I also sit on General Council for my FN. I am also a HUGE Harry Potter fan lol


How and why did you get into those jobs/hobbies/passions?


My professional goal is to one day be Chief of Carcross/Tagish First Nation, so every step I take in my professional life has to do with my goal. I have a 5-10 year goal. I want other Youth to know that they can have discipline and goals and can create a plan for themselves to better their lives. Having a goal means that the youth would have something to work towards and then they wouldn't feel like they're just "floating around".


Where have the activities/jobs that you’re doing in the Yukon taken you in life? Do they apply to your current occupation?


I started off as the Chief's Assistant and after working very hard and proving my capabilities I am now the Executive Manager and I have also been given the opportunity to be Acting Executive Director (this was a direct decision based on how hard I worked in my previous positions, proved my dedication to my FN and I have a certificate in First Nation Governance and Public Administration). I have travelled throughout Canada to attend various Conferences and meetings. In February I will be flying to Ottawa to attend Land Claims Agreement Coalition Conference and Youth Treaty Negotiation simulations as well.


What/who inspires/motivates you?


One big motivator for me is the fact I graduated early with honours and most of my friends were pushed through high school and needed upgrading. To me, this was unfair to them. Just because I didn't need upgrading (schooling was always easier for me), I felt bad for my friends that did. The education system failed them. I feel that I need to work harder for the youth and become a position of power so that I help change the system.


Do you want to leave the Yukon? If so, how, why and for how long?


Yukon will always be my home, but I always make sure to travel at least once a year.


How do you think life is different outside of the Yukon?


It is much more fast paced.


Where do you want to see yourself in the next 10 years?


I am hoping to be the Chief of Carcross/Tagish First Nation and have paved the way for youth to have a voice.


What is your message to youth in the Yukon?


Never give up! Education is so important and you cannot get far in life without it, even if the system is broke now, keep going, keep fighting for your right to learn. Every single Youth is important and deserves to be here.

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