Peerless Trout First Nation recently held its first culture camp.
“I was really happy with the outcome,” says Elizabeth Cardinal. Some of the campers told her they didn’t want to leave.
Cardinal is the Peerless Trout First Nation youth and cultural coordinator. This is a new position, but she has worked with the band for five years.
Last year, she says, chief and council had a strategic planning session. This new position was one of the results.
There was also a “mini strategic planning session” with six community youth, says Janene Wilson, consultant for Peerless Trout. “The cultural piece came from them.”
Peerless Trout is a Cree First Nation 230 kilometres northeast of Slave Lake, a ways off of Highway 88. Peerless has a population of around 500, and Trout has around 400.
In the past, Peerless Trout has joined neighbouring First Nation’s culture camps, but with COVID-19 decided to hold its own. The camp was at Eagle Lake, 20 kilometres outside of Peerless from September 28 to October 2. There were 26 youth, between the ages of 12 and 17 at the camp.
Lubicon Lake Band gave Peerless Trout three large canvas tents. Each held eight youth and a chaperone. As this was fall camping, these were heated with wood stoves.
“They were very cozy,” Cardinal says.
The focus of the camp was learning traditional skills to do with living off the land, she adds. Local hunters donated moose meat. The youth learned how to cut it up, make dry meat, and smoke the dry meat.
As both Trout and Peerless are on large lakes, fishing is an important traditional skill.
Local fishermen taught the youth how to fish with a net. They caught whitefish, pickerel (walleye), and suckers. With a rod, some also caught jackfish. The youth learned how to clean and smoke these.
They also learned how to snare rabbits and make moose calls out of a birch tree.
Orange Shirt Day happened during the camp, Cardinal said. Peerless Trout Elder Emile Houle came to talk about residential school.
On the final day, the youth prepared a traditional feast and invited the elders, and community for the meal. This included moose nose soup, heart soup, fried smoked fish, and bannock. The youth gave the elders gifts of dried meat.
“It was really awesome for the elders,” Cardinal said.
“It took the whole community to do this,” she adds. These included presenter, six chaperones, five cooks, and two camp attendants. With COVID-19, there were also six security guards patrolling a check stop on the road in shifts, to ensure only community members went into the camp.
Cardinal is reviewing the parent surveys from the culture camp. She hopes to offer more events and training over the winter. These might include sports, life skills, driver’s education, and more cultural themed events: such as ice fishing and trapping.
“It’s going to be busy,” Cardinal says.