Urban youth learn on the land
- Kerry Benjoe | September 13, 2023
The Treaty 4 Resurgence Camp for urban youth was a success and organizers couldn’t be more thrilled.
Jessica Gordon, founder of Ancestral Connections and senior director for Indigenous Relations for YWCA Regina, said the vision for the camp began long before she registered the organization as a non-profit.
“Growing up I noticed a lot of families and youth didn’t have access to ceremony or their language,” she said. “My parents lived the values, but they didn’t necessarily go out to ceremonies. So being an Indigenous youth living in the city for the majority of my life I realized there are so many other youth who were like me.”
Gordon was also one of the founding members of Idle No More and it was then she realized how important it is for Indigenous people to utilize and connect to the land.
“I am exercising our jurisdiction and our Treaty and Inherent rights to the land,” she said.
Gordon said this year everything just fell into place. First she applied for a grant with the support of the YWCA then connected with the Comeback Society who provided the land-based educators then found youth eager to learn.
For a week the Treaty 4 Resurgence camp set up at Kanookimaw beach.
Shaye Big Eagle, 17, was one of the campers and she left feeling very grateful.
“I am very appreciative of how we came especially from the first day to the last,” she said. “I am really grateful for the people. To have met a lot of old people and Elders who gave me teachings that I am able to pass down to my family.”
Big Eagle plans to share what she learned with her younger siblings and with others who are interested.
She learned about the camp through her aunt Alicia Monroe who is also the CEO of the Comeback Society.
“She knew I wanted to learn more about our culture so she brought me on,” said Big Eagle.
Prior to the camp, the only access she had to her culture was through a couple classes offered at her Regina high school.
Big Eagle says being able to come out on the land and be surrounded by Elders and Knowledge Keepers is amazing and believes many urban youths could benefit from this type of learning environment.
“So much of this knowledge is being lost,” she said. “It’s very hard to retain especially nowadays with barely anybody who knows this knowledge.”
Darrian Agecoutay, Cree language instructor, said he was happy to be part of this year’s camp because it’s something he would have enjoyed as a youth.
Although he grew up on the Cowessess First Nation, he didn’t grow up around ceremony.
However, as he got older and learned more of the Cree language it opened up a whole new world to him.
Agecoutay said everything is connected and it all starts with being on the land. Language comes from the land and one needs to know the language to truly understand the depth of ceremonies.
He said the youth are very fortunate to have this opportunity while they are still young.
Gordon sees the possibilities of the camp and in the near future she wants to create a school based on the same principles of land usage, connection to ceremonies, language, Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Ideally, she would like to provide a safe place for young people to live, learn and grow.