Michipicoten First Nation
Youth Celebrating Life Powwow & Retreat 2014
The youth collaboration initiative ‘Youth Celebrating Life’ was developed using a strengths approach in reaching out to our at-risk First Nation youth, 12 – 15 years of age, who are struggling with life & social skills, cultural disconnection, low self-worth, and lack of life purpose all correlated to the continuation of historical impacts. It is in our opinion that a culturally based shared group experience will give these youth a sense of hope for a brighter future.
The 3-day project began with the Youth-Run Community Powwow on Thursday, June 12, 2014 from 9:45 am – 2:00 pm at Michipicoten Community Centre in Wawa. Batchewana and Pic Mobert First Nation’s chaperones attended with their chosen youth from their communities. Following the Powwow, the invited youth and chaperones attended the youth camp until early afternoon on Sunday, June 15, 2014.
The Youth-Run Powwow was attended by approximately 300 people; the majority were students/staff from the three local Elementary schools and 2 Secondary schools. Pic Mobert attended with ten of their Secondary students and staff. Fearless Ojibwe from Pic Mobert FN was the host drum and Kaitlyn Corbiere of Batchewana FN was the head youth dancer. Big Bear Claw Singers from Brunswick House FN attended as well as a Traditional Men’s dancer, Women’s Jingle and Traditional Boy’s dancer from Pic Mobert First Nation. There were 15 spot dances and 3 place winners for the potato dance.
The Youth Retreat was attended by 22 youth and 10 chaperones/helpers by the three invited First Nation communities. The youth retreat began with each participant assigned to a clan, sharing circle within the clan and reintroduction of each clan member to larger group. Teachings on respect and working together were discussed within the teaching circle. The Tree of Gratitude was discussed (positive messages for each other); all participants completed a section of this tree during the retreat. Each participant was gifted a feast bundle and personal gift bag including takeaways, activities, and culturally related information. Once participants prepared their sleep quarters, a fun social ensued; games developed and water gun tag followed. During the retreat there was a healthy balance of social interaction and traditional teachings (formal and impromptu) appropriate for this age group. There was an abundance of laughter, forged friendships and play out of doors. Each night brought sharing, stories, and teachings around the fire.
Prior to each meal there was a prayer and song by facilitators and a feast plate prepared by the clan members who prepared the meal. Each clan was responsible for volunteering to prepare one meal and clean up the cooking and dining areas. Each meal began only once all clan members were present.
The youth created their own medicine pouch, completed a portion of their Medicine Wheel teaching activity and tie-dyed a t-shirt to be signed by their clan members and friends on Saturday night. Some of the youth took to fishing and swimming while others formed soccer and basketball games. The rabbit skinning teachings and outdoor cooking was well received. The Sweat Lodge was erected during the day with teachings and stories. The youth sweat was attended by all participants during Saturday evening. Each community was gifted an Eagle Feather: Batchewana FN Teen Centre, Pic Mobert FN for their Youth Council, and Michipicoten First Nation for their Cultural Room at MHS.
The Retreat concluded with a sharing circle and a gift of an Eagle Feather for each attendee. This tiny feather represents the gift and bond of friendship each youth received; circle of care.