Welcome to NorthernYouth.ca | Northern Youth is a project on Tides Canada's Shared Platform
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Northern Youth Leadership (NYL) brings together youth from across the Northwest Territories for remote on the land camps in our spectacular territory.

NYL camps facilitate the development of leadership skills, inspire confidence, and help youth develop the inner and outer resources needed to overcome challenges, reach their full potential, and create positive change in their communities.

NYL was started by two Yellowknifers that experienced first-hand the sense of accomplishment and confidence that comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone and realizing a goal. They wanted to share this transformational experience with youth from across the NWT and started Northern Youth Leadership (formerly Taiga Camp). NYL continues this legacy by offering a diverse range of unique and innovative programming for youth.

In 2018, NYL hosted the following camps:

2018 Spring Camp: girls aged 12 – 16 spent a week at Blachford Lake Lodge learning traditional Indigenous land skills, participating in arts activities, and experimenting with new athletic pursuits.

Gana River Boys Leadership Camp: an 8-day camp in the Mackenzie Mountains for boys aged 11 – 13. The boys hiked, fished, swam, canoed, and learned survival and traditional skills.

Keele River Expedition: 12 youth aged 14 -17 paddled the Keele River through a partnership with the Ayalik Fund and Canoe North Adventures.

North Arm Advanced Leadership Canoe Camp: an 11-day paddle for youth aged 13 – 16. They paddled 130km along the North Arm of Great Slave Lake from Behchokǫ to Yellowknife.

Girls Leadership Canoe Trip: Girls aged 13 – 16 spent a week paddling and learning survival skills in the Ingraham Trail area outside Yellowknife.

NYL Youth Forum: 22 youth aged 14 – 16 from Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut and Nunavik spent a week in Dettah. They participated in a cultural exchange, discussed shared challenges across the North, and engaged in traditional cultural activities.

Northern Youth Leadership is a project on Tides Canada’s Shared Platform, which supports on-the-ground efforts to create uncommon solutions for the common good. Tides Canada is a national Canadian charity dedicated to a healthy environment, social equity, and economic prosperity. The Shared Platform provides governance, human resources, financial, and grant management for leading environmental and social projects across Canada, allowing projects to more effectively achieve their missions.

For further information on NYL, our programs or to get involved as a participant, sponsor or team member – please contact us.

Vision, Mission, & Values

  • Our Vision

    To transform and inspire a generation of courageous young northern leaders.
  • Our Mission

    To provide on the land personal growth, leadership opportunities, and connections that empower young people to create positive change.
  • Our Goals

    • Inspire confidence in youth by challenging self-imposed limitations
    • Cultivate independence
    • Develop leadership skills
    • Instill healthy relationships and lifestyles
    • Promote lifelong learning and the pursuit of interests
  • Our Values

    • Resilience • Respect • Inclusiveness • Accountability • Well being • Youth connection

Our Staff

Ali McConnell
Project Director

Ali spent her childhood running around outside and camping with her family in British Columbia. After four years exploring the Beaufort Delta, she moved to Yellowknife to experience more of this beautiful territory. An advocate for on-the-land programming, Ali has witnessed first hand how youth transform and grow during remote wilderness programming. The Project Director position with NYL is a great opportunity for her to apply her skills in non-profit management and youth work to a powerful project inspiring the next generation of northern leaders and helping youth challenge their self-imposed limitations.




Our Leaders in Training

Emma Willoughby
Leader in Training

Emma Willoughby was born and raised in Yellowknife.  She also spent a year in northern Spain when she was seven and attended school in Costa Rica when she was 12.

She has been going out on the land her whole life  – family camping, boating and snowmobile trips in the Northwest Territories; summer camp and canoe trips in northern Ontario; and most recently as a leader in training with Northern Youth Leadership.

She is currently a grade 11 student at Ecole Sir John Franklin High School. Outside of school she enjoys sports, fiddling, photography, travelling and spending time outdoors. She hopes to pursue a career in education, community development or global relations.

She is excited to back for another season with NYL!


Our Steering Committee

Mandee McDonald

Mandee McDonald is the Managing Director and one of the founding members of Dene Nahjo, an Indigenous innovation collective committed to fostering Indigenous leadership skills and values through cultural resurgence. Mandee was Camp Director of Dene Nahjo’s 2nd Annual Urban Hide Tanning Camp in Somba K’e in September 2017. Dene Nahjo organizes hide tanning camps, Indigenous women’s gatherings, and offers a program of workshops called the Indigenous Leadership Workshop Series. To influence the forthcoming Arctic Policy Framework, Dene Nahjo co-wrote We Are One Mind: Perspectives from Emerging Indigenous Leaders On the Arctic Policy Framework with Our Voices (Yukon) and Qanak (Nunavut).

Mandee is Maskîkow (Swampy Cree), originally from from Mántéwisipihk (Churchill, MB), and has resided in Somba K’e (Yellowknife) for the past twenty years.   She has a B.A. in Political Science (Hon.) with a Minor in Indigenous Studies, and a M.A. in Indigenous Governance from the University of Victoria.   She is a community-builder, facilitator, and a novice hide tanner with extensive experience in Indigenous, land-based education program development and management.



Chloe Dragon Smith

Chloe Dragon SmithChloe Dragon Smith is a Chipewyan-European-Metis woman from Yellowknife. Her wild northern upbringing shaped her values today. Chloe holds a degree in Earth Science from the University of Victoria; however, while educated in science, she has found her niche in working with people – mainly on the social and cultural benefits of the natural world. She cares about the intersection between nature, culture, and modern society. Chloe has previously been a leader for NYL, and she is a big supporter of any organization that gets people outdoors! She sees a lot of potential with NYL and feels very lucky to be part of such a great group.

Leanne Robinson

Leanne goodAttracted by the people she met in a high school exchange to Kimmirut, NU and captivated by the challenges of the North, Leanne moved to the NWT to work with a not-for-profit organization helping to reduce the costs and environmental impacts of energy in the NWT.  She joined the steering committee in 2014 after having just come back from a 3 month wilderness trip in which she paddled for 2 months from Behchoko to Kugluktuk and then hiked onwards to Paulatuk. Thinking they were all alone after paddling straight North from Behchoko for 4 weeks, they met a group of 8 young men out on the land that had paddled the same route from Behchoko. These young men were part of a high school camp that after several years of courses and shorter trips had culminated in a 6 week paddle in the Northwest Territories. They were growing and learning at an incredible pace. The few short hours with them was one of the most powerful and moving moments of the trip and she vowed to find out what was in place close to home for youth on-the-land experiences.

Leanne is fully convinced that the work that NYL is doing is bringing the type of learning to young people of the North that she saw that summer and hopes that being on the land is as powerful to the youth involved as it is to her. She is an avid lover of the wilderness, living off-grid and off-road and almost annually partaking on multi-month wilderness trips. This is an amazing place to learn about ourselves and each other and the Northern Youth experience is helping in a small way achieve the goal of enabling youth to be resilient leaders in their community.

Gilly McNaughton

Gilly McNaughton

Born and raised in Inuvik before moving to Yellowknife as a teenager, from a very young age Gilly was resolved to turn her love of nature into a career. One of the disproportionate number of northern students who do not finish high school, she found herself as a young adult with a grade ten education and lacking the confidence and knowledge of how to begin navigating towards her aspirations. Instead, she spent several years in the north as a youth outreach worker, coordinating community-based suicide intervention programs and promoting mental health programming. During a trip down south she participated in a guided wilderness hike hosted by a University of Alberta professor and a spark for land-based learning was lit. Inspired by their effortless ability to interpret the wilderness as an interactive story, she applied for entry into a natural resources college program. That diploma propelled her into university and away towards a degree she went. From collecting grizzly bear hair on the tundra to working on wildlife disease research projects in the South Slave, she found her niche working on the land. Now completing a MSc at Memorial University, she is collaboratively researching cultural valuation of nature with an Indigenous group in Labrador. Gilly believes strongly that without a few key people in her life to cultivate leadership and a sense of capacity, she wouldn’t be where she is today. She was drawn to NYL first as a field instructor and later as a member of the steering committee in the hope that she can be a part of someone else’s spark.

Shannon Ward

Shannon WardShannon moved to Inuvik, NT in 1996 to work with the Gwich’in Tribal Council after completing a masters in Natural Resources Management from the University of Manitoba, and has not looked south since! For the past 18 years, Shannon has built an exemplary reputation working and communicating in a wide variety of northern contexts: from small groups in community settings to addressing senior government officials and industry representatives. Shannon is currently working as a part-time consultant from her home in Yellowknife where she and her husband are raising their two children.

As a mother of two kids who are being educated both in school and on the land, and will soon become “northern youth”, Shannon has chosen to devote her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge to help support the goal of promoting and inspiring the next generation of young northern leaders. Shannon brings a variety of skills to Northern Youth including over 10 years experience both serving and sitting on a variety of boards in the public and volunteer sectors. Shannon also brings experience in project and team management, organizational development, plain language writing, communications and media relations. As a new director to Northern Youth, Shannon looks forward to learning from and working with this fabulous team of folks!

Laurie Sarkadi

unnamedLaurie’s love of the wild lured her to the Northwest Territories as northern correspondent for the Edmonton Journal. Enchanted by the landscapes, the people and the abundance of the natural world, she quickly laid down roots, marrying and moving to an off-grid, lakeside home outside of Yellowknife. Raising three sons in this setting – where electronics were largely banned due to power and internet restraints – reinforced her belief that healthy pursuits in the great outdoors are the best way to build relationships and connections to the world around us…as exemplified by the intricate, traditional lifestyles of the North’s Indigenous peoples. Laurie worked several years at CBC North, freelanced in magazine writing and film production, and now edits the popular EDGE YK magazine. Throughout her journalism career she has focused on issues of social justice and the environment. She served on the NWT Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness and is interested in programming that helps strengthen healthy, sustainable communities. She sees the Northern Youth steering committee as an exciting extension of this work.