Creating a Path by Walking It - A Year in Review of Pohna: Keepers of the Fire


  • Karen Erickson BSW (Victoria), MEd (Toronto).
  • Patti LaBoucane-Benson PhD Human Ecology (Alberta)
  • Fiona Hossack BA (Alberta)



Youth involvement in criminal activity and gangs is a complex problem.  This article examines Pohna: Keepers of the Fire, a gang intervention and diversion program for at risk youth.  The program seeks to guide at risk youth away from criminal activity by creating a place where youth are valued and their strengths are used to build their connections and responsibilities to the community.  There is no simple and straightfoward answer to addressing the problem of youth involvement in criminal activity and gangs.  However, from our analysis of five case studies, we have learned that in order to develop effective programs and interventions for at risk youth, we need to focus our attention on learning from them and our interactions with them.  To effectively support the youth involved in Pohna, we need to understand and address the broader forces at work that both strengthen and undermine their resiliency.

Author Biographies

Karen Erickson, BSW (Victoria), MEd (Toronto).

Karen is the Manager of Pohna: Keepers of the Fire at Native Counselling Services of Alberta.  Prior to this she was the Manager for Community Solution to Gang Violence, a collaborative community-based initiative in Edmonton.

Patti LaBoucane-Benson, PhD Human Ecology (Alberta)

Director of Research, Training and Communication of Native Counselling Services of Alberta.  Patti has initiated and led many community-based, applied research projects within the Aboriginal community, and is also the General Editor of the periodical Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Indigenous and Aboriginal Community Health Research.

Fiona Hossack, BA (Alberta)

Fiona is currently pursuing a MSc in Agriculture and Resource Economics from the Faculty of Agriculture, Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta.