A photo of youth, smiling surrounded by nature and two tipis, at the culture camp on Muskoday First Nation.

Culture Camp helps participants develop cultural strength

By: Nickita Longman December, 2023

Organizers, from Muskoday First Nations, identified the need for youth to access the cultural teachings held by many Elders in the region, which led to the development of its multi-generational culture camp.

Now in its second year, the Culture Camp on Muskoday First Nation continues to bring youth and Elders together for a week of knowledge-sharing and land-based education. While the opportunity focuses on youth, the program involves many others from the community. It was created and executed by Elders with assistance from Elders’ Helpers and community members. Organizers included: Chief and Council, Muskoday School, Muskoday Health Clinic, and Muskoday Elders’ Club.

Elder Liaison Gwen Bear, says that “Utilizing the Elders during the Culture Camp is one of the ways we show we value our Elders and the knowledge they carry. Utilizing their knowledge is one of the most important actions in developing the cultural strength within our community.”

Elder Suzy Bear, who was involved in the cultural activities and teachings, says that bringing together youth and Elders together is a powerful way to encourage relationship-building within the community. “Elders have plenty of stories and history to share with youth,” she explains. “And the mere fact that our children are beginning to understand and learn their culture is a big step for them.”

The Camp opened with a pipe ceremony each morning, followed by tipi-raising activities, and sweat lodge preparation. Youth were guided through tipi teachings, protocols, and necessary skills, such as gathering rocks and wood for the sweat lodge ceremony. Additionally, youth learned oral traditions and teachings, fire teachings, hunting and gathering skills, cultural songs, as well as, medicine gathering and its uses. Youth also engaged in beading and regalia-making workshops that encouraged youth and families to prepare for the upcoming demonstrations and practices for Muskoday’s 30th Annual Powwow during the summer.

According to Elder Suzy Bear, “Elders were involved from planning and developing, assisting in the activities, teachings, sweats, ceremonies, tipi teachings, pipe ceremonies, feasts, and the closing giveaway.”

As the Camp continues to build momentum annually, more connections are being made with the school and the overall community. These connections increase reach to engage youth and provide continued learning outside of the Camp’s timeline.

Elwin Bear, a K-12 and post-secondary education coordinator, Muskoday School, says the Camp is a space that provides youth with spiritual, emotional, physical and mental teachings that will transfer to overall well-being within the community. “These teachings need to be shared so they can continue being passed down to future generations.”

The Camp brings people together over shared meals, and ends in a community feast and giveaway. This year, Gwen Bear was pleased to see nearly 100 attendees at the gathering. “During these times the Elders are looked after with great respect, they are the heart of our community and having them teach the youth and families during this week was valued, honoured, and respected.”

Muskoday First Nation received support from SaskCulture’s Aboriginal Arts and Culture Leadership (AACL) Grant funded by Sask Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.