Jasmine Kabatay: Culture camps pass on tradition in trying times
With the recent verdicts in the Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie trials, these camps are an important reminder to the youth that they matter — and we acknowledge that by passing down the knowledge to them.
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When I think about the traditions and stories from my culture, I often think back to where I first learned about them.
My community and family have taught me a great deal. But the experiences I had at culture camps are incomparable.
Culture camps are where people go to learn or reconnect with their language, culture and traditions.
The activities change as the seasons do. From Grade 6 to 8, I went every summer to a week-long language camp. We camped out, fished, did sweats and spoke Anishinaabemowin.
But the camp I would always look forward to was the annual Dagwaaginimaawindoosijigewin (also known as Fall Harvest), hosted by the Seven Generations Education Institute in northwestern Ontario.
Students from the surrounding area came to observe or participate in activities such as preparing and cleaning wild rice for the winter months and cleaning animals like fish, geese, deer and beaver.
Students also learned through storytelling by elders and even got tips on building a smokehouse and smoking meat.
I was taken straight back to those memories recently reading a CBC story about youth from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation who took part in a two-day culture camp to learn Anishinaabe traditions of trapping and hunting during the winter.
Kyle French, a youth justice advocacy coordinator for Chippewa, told CBC he planned the camp after youth were asking to learn more about hunting and trapping.
When I read that the youth were asking for this, it made me feel happy and hopeful knowing they are as interested and want to know their past traditions while they grow up in the fast-paced modern world.
And with the recent verdicts in the Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie trials, these camps are an important reminder to the youth that they matter — and we acknowledge that by passing down the knowledge to them and involving them.
When I see these culture camps continuing and youth willing and eager to learn about their culture and traditions, it makes me happy and grateful for the opportunities I had growing up to learn about my own culture and traditions.
There are lots of these camps running across the country, continuing the tradition of sharing and passing down the knowledge like their ancestors before them.
They are set up to show and teach the traditional ways we’ve had of living for thousands of years. And they are more important than ever — both for our youth and people, but also as a learning point for non-Indigenous people.