Army camp for Indigenous youth “a huge success”
By Sergeant Peter Moon, 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group
A week-long military training camp for Indigenous youth on the Fort William First Nation in early August was “a huge success,” according to the camp’s commandant.
“It is important for us as members of the Canadian Armed Forces to learn about the communities in which we work and live. The camp allowed us to do that,” said Captain Brent Bastien of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, a Reserve unit of the Army.
The camp was called Eagle’s Nest, and was the sixth in an annual series by that name offered by the Canadian Army for Indigenous youth in different locations. It was the first time the camp was offered at Fort William First Nation. The camp was set up on the shore of Lake Superior, and housed participants ranging from 10 to 16 years old, from Fort William First Nation and other northern communities.
The participants learned a range of skills including first aid, marksmanship and safe handling of firearms, setting snares and building emergency shelters, and navigation skills using assault boats. They also learned some traditional skills, such as building a sweat lodge.
Also in attendance were three Junior Canadian Rangers from Lac Seuil First Nation, who displayed strong leadership skills and demonstrated the value of the Junior Canadian Ranger program. Terrance Angeconeb, 13, Dylan Chisel, 16, and Reilly Thivierge, 14, were quickly promoted to become leaders of the three teams of participants. At the end of the camp, Junior Ranger Chisel received the award for top leadership.
Ken Ogima, Fort William First Nation’s Chief Executive Officer and an Army Veteran, said the participants “gave up seven days of their summer but they learned a lot of very useful things.”
While the youth participation level was lower than expected, he praised the Army for bringing the camp to the First Nation. “I would definitely like to see it return,” he said. “The fact is our youth today are crying out for identity. Eagle’s Nest offered them a direction.”
The youngest participant was 10-year-old Briere Meekis of Thunder Bay. “They taught me a lot of stuff I didn’t know,” he said. “They kept telling me to drink lots of water because it was hot. I’ve had fun. It was cool.”
The award for the top participant went to 11-year-old Elijah Graham, the son of Georjann Morriseau, the First Nation’s former chief. “I thought it would be good for him to be active and have a break from doing the same things every day, videos and computers and iPads. I knew he was going to be in good hands and, as a parent, I didn’t have to worry. He’s had a wonderful time and had so much fun. This is what our kids need,” she said.
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