By Tanjina Tahsin
The primary goal of the camps is to provide Indigenous youth the opportunity to learn about the science: in water, plants, fish, wildlife, and human relationships with their environment through land-based teaching. Kis Kin Ha Ma Ki Win camps also provide the community a unique opportunity to build and strengthen the relationship between the youth and elders through sharing knowledge, stories, and cultural activities.
First camp of the season- Brokenhead Ojibway Nation
Kis Kin Ha Ma Ki Win organized its first camp of the season in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation (BON), a Treaty 1 Nation located northeast of the Winnipeg, Manitoba on July 23, 2021, just after COVID -19 restrictions were lifted. The camp was set up outside the Cultural Village of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation where eight enthusiastic youth joined us, and they were much younger than we expected. The camp started with smudging followed by a brief introduction.
A range of water quality parameters were presented, along with real-life examples and through a power-point presentation to provide additional visual aids. Then water samples from Brokenhead River were collected and to provide hand-on learning on environmental science specially on water quality, the portable water quality testing kits were introduced, and youth were taught how to conduct the tests by themselves. Since the participants were much younger to comprehend all so a very few tests were performed in this camp.
Eric Collins, a professor at University of Manitoba along with one of his grad student Patricia joined our camp to provide insights and share knowledge on aquatic habitat. Most remarkable thing was that he brought his two microscopes and taught the participants how to observe zooplankton under the microscope. He also taught youth to build home-made net to catch zooplankton.
In terms of traditional teaching, Elder Bill Ballantyne shared his knowledge on relationship, education, and culture with the youth along with the drum songs. He emphasized the role of women to protect water since they are life-givers. Followed by a teaching where land educator Carl Smith led the way and taught us how to build a shelter from land, how to make shelters. Traditionally, they called it Wigwams and they were made of birch bark, brush and animal hide. Wigwams were used in different types of weather conditions and mostly used in the time of farming, hunting and trapping. Traditional teaching continued later in the day with elder Glenda Smith who taught about sweat lodges, their different kinds and ceremonies. She also explained the significance of sweat lodges for Indigenous people and their healing. On the last day, we mostly focused on sharing circle- where everyone shared their learning from the camp and provided their feedback for the future camps.
Kis Kin Ha Ma Ki Win camp with Pauingassi First Nation and Little Grand Rapids First Nation
On August 30th, 2021, Kis Kin Ha Ma Ki Win coordinated a camp along with SERDC (Southeast Resource Development Council). SERDC were hosting wildfire evacuee of Pauingassi First Nation and Little Grand Rapids First Nation. Youths from both communities participated in the camp which was set up on the campus of St. Benedict monastery.
The first day started with Martina-the Blue sky Eagle Woman who began the camp with smudging, water songs and water ceremonies. She shared her water teaching-the significance of water in our life with the participants as she stated, “We have to take care of water because water can take life” and “water is scarce now”.
After the teaching we came together to test water quality and to experience hands-on learning on water quality. Water samples were collected from nearby Red River, the portable water quality testing kits were introduced, and youth were taught how to conduct the tests by themselves. They actively participated in it and since they were older youth than the previous camp, it was easy for them to perceive and fully benefit from the science activities.
Indigenous Knowledge keeper Charlotte Nolin joined the camp on the second day and taught the youth how to make rattles with deer hides. Rattles are part of Indigenous people as they carried them, sat with them in sweat lodge and used them when singing. She told the youth that “when you make the rattle, remember the animal who have given up his/her life to make this rattle”. She also mentioned to pray while making it and thank Grandmother and the animal.
Later in the afternoon, Tammy Wolfe-a knowledge keeper taught the youth beading work. She stated that beadwork is about decision making, for instance from choosing color, number of beads to pattern/design. “Patience is exactly what the beadworks will teach you”. It showed true when everybody was later immersed in making jewelry with beads.
On the last day, like other camps, we focused on sharing circles and the camp ended with a nature walk in the Birdshill provincial park and later at the beach where everyone relaxed a bit, finished their rattle making before leaving.
It was a very lively camp, full of engaging activities with some energetic, vibrant youth participants. Being evacuees of the ongoing wildfires, the youth were away from their home, and some were even separated from their family, living in a hotel room, this camp provided them an opportunity to experience a welcome change and allowed them to be their own (Indigenous) selves.