Students from four schools from across the territory spent five days last week learning about leadership, resiliency and especially making friends.
“Each school has been doing their own thing to build up to this,” said Chief Sunrise Education Centre principal Christina Steen. “It’s all about self-esteem, communication, confidence and the cultural foundation of identity.”
This is the first time the camp took place, drawing Grade 6 students and chaperones from Fort McPherson, Aklavik, Fort Providence and K’atlodeeche First Nation, though there are similar efforts in many places. Steen said part of the plan with this camp was to introduce the students to each other at a younger age, with most of the on-the-land learning opportunities made available for high school students.
“Prov has the Keepers program for older grades,” she said. “We just thought that this would be a good way to start them off towards that.”
Led by an outside facilitator, the children played games and participated in sharing circles for much of the day, along with free time, in which they could choose between activities like canoeing and spending time in the tipi. Elders were also on-hand throughout the week to help guide the learning.
“This kind of thing should be annual for the whole school,” said Pat Martel. “In the territory, the culture is similar, but with small differences, and this is something they need to continue doing every year.”
Elder Dorothy Buckley said she was honoured to have been included and was impressed with everything the children had learned.
“When they grow up, they can reflect on this and remember,” she said.
Steen said one of the best outcomes for her had been seeing the children gradually grow less shy as they met peers from other communities. She said she hopes that the connections forged at the camp will carry forward for the rest of their school careers and longer.
“We learned lots of games,” said Jillian Pokiak from Aklavik. “The best was rock-paper-scissors.”
Justine Vittrekwa from Fort Providence said she learned a lot about being a leader.
“It means showing respect,” she said.
— Sarah Ladik