News / Edmonton

Alberta youth camp for indigenous women loses funding

Twelve-year-old Tiarayne Paul hopes the Alliance Pipeline Young Indigenous Women’s Circle of Leadership will not be shut down due to a lack of funding.

"I really want to go to it next year and keep going to it until I’m seventeen, because it was just an amazing experience," she said of the APYIWCL program.

Alliance Pipeline is pulling its funding from the program due to the recent economic situation.

The eight-day Cree-emersion educational camp, run out of the University of Alberta, seeks to reconnect girls aged 10 to 16 with their indigenous roots.

“I got pick sweet grass and sage … and I got to learn how to smudge and learn the colours in Cree,” said Paul, whose first language is English.

Rochelle Starr, APYIWCL’s director, comes from Little Pine Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan and said few of the young women have ever heard their ancestral languages or had any exposure to traditional ceremonies.

Starr says the camp is essential because research documents how integral indigenous knowledge is for indigenous people’s identity and personal development.

“With residential schools, that knowledge transfer was totally disconnected, so now the work is just connecting to that knowledge,” Starr said. “The importance and value of this camp is providing that knowledge to these young women."

She adds that they do a lot of identity, mothering and relationship work with the girls, teaching them what it means to be connected to your family, your community, your nation and your land.

"It’s very important to me,” Tiarayne said.

"If it’s not around, I forget about it, then I don’t know about my culture and I don’t feel like I’m a part of something."

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