Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre’s summer culture camp aims to get young people in touch with their cultures, no matter what their background.
“It’s really for everyone,” said Sharon Pekok, the centre’s executive director. “We want to do some drumming, which is more Dene, but we were also going to do some fiddling and jigging, which is more Metis.”
For three weeks this August, registered children can participate in activities ranging from drum-making and berry picking to hiking, fishing and cooking, every weekday between 1-5 p.m.
Pekok said the number of participants is limited to 10 as she is only one person supervising, and the scope of activities is dictated by who she can get as volunteers.
As for the kids themselves, Pekok said, while she has a few regulars since the program began on Aug. 12, the kids mostly come and go as they please, attending the afternoon sessions as it suits them and their parents.
“I came because I felt like it,” said Noah Lafleur. “I get to go boating and fishing and all kinds of stuff.”
Plus, he is looking forward to berry picking most of all and perhaps making Saskatoon berry pancakes afterwards.
“We have lots of activities planned,” said Pekok. “It’s just a matter of getting hold of the right volunteers.”
The key is getting elders from the community to tell stories and do activities with the children, aged seven through 12, according to Pekok.
“A lot of our day-to-day things in our lives aren’t geared towards learning our culture, and when the elders can come in and tell stories and show the kids how to do things, it really gives them an opportunity to learn they wouldn’t get otherwise,” she said. “There’s definitely a bit of a gap. A lot of our kids today are more geared towards technology than anything else.”
Pekok said, in the past, children would spend more time with their parents and grandparents, and were more exposed to certain skills and values as a result.
While she wishes the program could continue in some form into the school year, Pekok is unsure whether there would be funding for a steady program into the fall.
She noted most of her days are filled with funding applications to be sent to various government departments and organizations.
“I’m looking for money to run an after-school program for them, but nothing is certain yet,” she said. “A lot of people come and they have lots of ideas, but right now we need to get the funding in place.”
As much work as running this sort of programming is, Pekok wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I just really love working with the kids,” she said. “You think you know everything, but they always have something to teach you.”
— Sarah Ladik