By Rick Garrick
BIINJITIWAABIK ZAAGING ANISHINAABEK — Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) held a six-week Summer Student Outdoor Survival Program for youth and a four-day Youth Wellness Day Camp for children this summer.
“[The Summer Student Outdoor Survival Program participants] got their boat licence, they got their hunter safety, they got a little bit of wilderness first-aid knowledge, not the certification, but they got their canoe certification,” says Desiree Hardy, mental health support worker at Spirit Bay School in BZA. “They went on the commercial fishing boats to learn how to commercial fish and we did a lot of activities with them to kind of bring back some of the [commercial fishing] knowledge. Some of the kids really enjoyed that.”
Hardy says the youth also had a tour of the core shack of a nearby lithium mine and a tree-planting demonstration by tree planters from the community.
“Some of them really enjoyed tree planting and they were like, ‘I want to be a tree planter next year,’” Hardy says. “[We] showed them different outdoor work that is going on in our community to see if that is something they would want to do in the future.”
Hardy says the youth received a high school credit for completing the Summer Student Outdoor Survival Program.
“At the end, they went on a two-day camping trip,” Hardy says. “They got to plan it all, and they did a canoe trip before they started camping. On the last day we had a lunch and we invited all of their family — the students had put together a video and showed that to their families.”
Hardy says the Youth Wellness Day Camp, held for children from six to 12-years-old from Aug. 22-25 at the BZA Community Centre, was a follow-up to a Nokiiwin Tribal Council day camp held in July.
“We planned daily themes, so there was different things going on every day for the kids to do,” Hardy says. “[For] Under the Sea Day we did a lot of water-themed activities, so we talked about different fish, we had fish identification. We had rock painting, we had ocean sun catcher making and we had a salt-water density experiment.”
Hardy says they did a twig boat making contest and boat race in the water for Nature Day.
“That was fun, the kids really enjoyed that,” Hardy says. “We had ecosystem making, so that was terrariums in a jar. We had an outdoor scavenger hunt, so that was just learning outdoor items, and we talked about the importance of picking up garbage and taking care of the land.”
Hardy says they had people come in to do pow wow cardio with the children on Culture Day because the BZA 35th Annual Pow Wow was being held on the upcoming weekend.
“We wanted to try to incorporate some of the pow wow dances — the kids really enjoyed that, it was lots of fun,” Hardy says. “We had dream-catcher making, we had [an Anishinaabemowin] language scavenger hunt, we played a traditional Cree game called double ball and that was new for the kids.”
Hardy says the children were split up into teams for Olympics Day.
“They had to make a flag and then a chant, they had to come up with a group name,” Hardy says. “We played some soccer and baseball, we had some relay races. They came up with their own game, it was based off of a video game.”
Hardy says the children enjoyed the whole week, noting that they introduced different concepts and had conversations throughout the week.
“Having a lot of activities was really important,” Hardy says. “They liked seeing the schedule and knowing what we’re doing today.”