"It brings us together as a community"

The week of March 12-16, 2017, was an exciting one for 24 Métis youth who gathered from all over Ontario to participate in the annual MNO Infinite Reach March Break Camp. Every year more high school students come to this remarkable event to learn about postsecondary opportunities and discover more about their Métis heritage. As has been the case for the last several years, the March Break Camp took place at the Canadian Ecology Centre (CEC) near Mattawa.

“It’s really an awesome way to connect with other Métis youth,” said participant Reagan Sicard, “and to learn about the history and our culture and even opportunities for postsecondary. It brings us together as a community.”

Students were kept hopping from the time they arrived on Sunday night until they left on Thursday. Activities included workshops on the value of postsecondary education, the MNO Infinite Reach program and Writing Resumes and Cover Letters.  They also learned about MNO programs and services including Urban Aboriginal Strategy Research and Healing Moccasins.

Senator Ray Bergie who was one of the elders in attendance enjoyed being with the youth who made him feel young again. “It [the camp] brings youth together and let’s them know they are part of a larger family [which is important because] they are our strength and our future.”

The students spent a lot of time learning about their Métis culture and way-of-life. This included sessions learning how to jig to fiddle music, finger weave sashes and create Métis dot art. Métis harvesters Nelson Montreuil and Roger Labelle taught the students about trapping, furs and how to skin a beaver and stretch a beaver pelt. Senator Robert Lloyd provided instructions on making Sumac sap spiles and the students also made, cooked and ate bannock. The location of the CEC near the Ottawa River made connecting with Métis history particularly easy as Vic Brunelle, a Commissioner on the MNO Commission on Métis Rights and Self-Government explained: “You are in a location where your ancestors and the Voyageurs passed - right there in front of you [referring to the river] – that is what is very unique about this place.”

The highlight for many of students was all the time they spent outside getting in touch with nature and the land. This included campfires, snowshoe hikes where they were introduced to their voyageur heritage and winter ecology and on their last night the Creatures of the Night Wolf Howl led by the CEC staff. Participant Hunter Mageau commented: “It’s been a lot of fun and I am enjoying being outdoors and learning about my heritage and everything that my ancestors did and how they lived. It’s important to know about your history.”

Throughout the Camp, the students benefited from the teachings and guidance from Senators Verna Porter-Brunelle, Dr. Alis Kennedy, Ray Bergie and Commissioner Vic Brunelle, Infinite Reach Facilitator Heather Bell, as well as the support from a team of MNO staff members including Alicia Blore, Anne Trudel, Wanda Botsford, Melody Chislett-Morris, Alyssa Lewis, Michael Smith, Scott Carpenter, Marsha Depotier and Steve Gautreau.

Senator Porter-Brunelle spoke about the value of the Camp saying: “A lot of students don’t get the opportunity to live the Métis way-of-life so this is a way of becoming a big family and learning about the Métis way-of-life and maybe bringing it back to their communities. The Métis Nation of Ontario is going strong – We aspire.”

Click here to see pictures from the MNO March Break Camp

Click here to view 2016 Infinite Reach March Break Camp

Posted: April 21, 2017

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