Dialogues for Promoting Indigenous Spirituality and Culture

Nurturing well-being with land-based Culture Camps

In Toronto’s urban landscape, many Indigenous people find it challenging to connect with the land – a vital aspect of Indigenous well-being and identity.

Native Child and Family Services of Toronto (NCFST) recognized this need and conceived the On the Land Culture Camps program. Designed to address the disconnect between urban Indigenous youth and their cultural roots, the Culture Camps have hosted young campers every year in July and August for over 30 years. Camps are taking place in Clarendon Station on the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki, Treaty 27, and have become communal gathering spaces for learning, traditional ceremonies, and recreational activities. 

The camps’ curriculum includes morning and evening traditional teaching circles, sweat lodge ceremonies, drum round dances, storytelling, and arts and crafts—all led by an Elder with support from dedicated staff and volunteers. In addition to cultural components, campers also participate in outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, swimming, and canoeing, enriching their connection to the land.

Funding from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) will allow NCFST to expand this much needed program. Beyond enhancing the current curriculum with more cultural activities, the funding will also allow the program to evolve into a year-round initiative.

The impact of the On the Land programs is evident, with over 92% of caregivers expressing that their children’s participation in land-based activities significantly contributed to their well-being. This resonates with the knowledge passed down through generations in Indigenous communities—being on the land is healing. Transforming indoor programming into a family-centered, trauma-informed, land-based experience continues to foster cultural safety and healing encounters for Indigenous youth and children in Toronto.

Archdiocese of Toronto