In the summer of 2023, the Kici-Anishnabek Kananakachiwewat Community Services Cooperative (Cote First Nations Elders’ Council) of eastern Saskatchewan hosted the second annual Youth Culture Camp, about 100 km north of the Cote First Nation, on the aptly-named Peepaw Plains — elders say it means “the place where life begins.”
After supporting a successful first camp in 2022, the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund funded the 2023 camp to empower the Cote First Nation Elders to carry on the work they had started so that the language and land-based skills are practiced often and become part of the lives of every young person.
Elders hope and believe that getting young people back on the land will help combat issues such as drug and substance abuse, suicide, lack of respect and disengagement in their communities.
The camp focused on teaching and learning land-based survival skills and Onakawek language skills. The wooded area adjacent to the prairie was the perfect location for camping, ceremonies, nature walks and picking medicines. Returning youth participants had the opportunity to develop and practice leadership skills.
Parents, Elders and dignitaries were invited to participate in sweat ceremonies, opening ceremonies and prayers. Representatives from local parishes, the nearby town of Kamsack, SK, Archbishop Don Bolen, and members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) joined the camp to share in some of the ceremonies.
The Youth Culture Camp created positive experiences rooted in understanding ancestral traditions and nurtured self-awareness and self-esteem among the participants. Each year this camp is run is crucial in fostering collaboration, community, and togetherness while helping the youth reclaim their culture and heritage.
The Kici-Anishnabek Kananakachiwewat Community Services Cooperative (Cote First Nations Elders’ Council), established in 2021, is dedicated to reviving language and culture within their community. Through their activities, the Council challenges the youth to be more respectful, learn traditional land-based skills and retain the Onakawek language while building self-esteem and leadership skills.
Archdiocese of Regina