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Indigenous youth connect with roots through communicating with horses

The camp, All My Relations, teaches participants how to read horse behaviours individually and observe their behaviours in group settings.

Cody Kimewon at a horse camp for Indigenous youth that teaches their history with horses.

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Cody Kimewon at a horse camp for Indigenous youth that teaches their history with horses.

Indigenous youth are getting in touch with their roots this week — communicating with horses and incorporating that into their art — and it's all happening within city limits.

The camp is run by the arts program 7th Generation Image Makers. Participants begin each day at the Native Youth Resource Centre, focusing on art and tradition, before hopping on the TTC and heading to the Communitiy Association for Riders with Disabilities (CARD).

"I don't like taking youth, or myself, out of the city. They have this really amazing experience and then there's the reality of having to come back," said Reagan Kennedy, arts program co-ordinator for 7th Generation Image Makers.

The camp, All My Relations, is teaching participants how to communicate with horses from the ground, how to read their behaviours individually and observe their behaviours in group settings.

"We come from an oral culture and a visual and hands-on culture, so I think it's just another great way for them to build that kinetic vocabulary," said Kennedy.

In one activity, participants will observe how the horses interact with each other and figure out which roles each one plays.

"In a lot of ways it's very similar to a lot of our communities who are trying to return to our clan system as a form of governance and sharing some of those teachings," she said.

Cody Kimewon, 23, had never been around horses before All My Relations, and now he can't get enough of them. After learning more about the relationship between horses and First Nations people, Kimewon hopes he'll be able to volunteer at CARD when the program is over.

"They were like a brother or sister, and we are learning how we work together and how much they were helpful in our communities and how we were helpful to them," Kimewon said.

Jennifer Messon, 20, remained indifferent to horses until the program started. Now when she sees a horse, she said, "I'm like, ohmygod! A horse!"

Kennedy said there are groups further west, in both Canada and the United States, that are returning to their traditional relationship with horses and sharing their knowledge with non-Indigenous people.

"It's a really great way to engage in reconciliation ... especially through horses. They're such a powerful medicine," she added.

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