Summers of Opportunity
As I have come from a background that had consisted of very little to no Métis knowledge or teachings, coming on board to work with the Métis Nation of Ontario through the Summer Youth Cultural Program was definitely a life changing experience.
The journey of really learning about Métis people began for me in the summer of 2011. At this point, the program was still very new and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be involved in the development of the program as Sault Ste. Marie (my hometown) was one of three chosen sites. That summer, a brief two day training session was held in Sault Ste. Marie that was led by Scott Carpenter, bringing everyone together for the first time, and for me, was the first time that I had really been introduced to what it meant to be Métis. Ruth had also come to the training session where she was able to share with us her knowledge of Métis skills which included: embroidery, beading, and finger weaving. Nearing the end of the summer, the students who were involved in the Summer Youth Cultural Program had the privilege of attending the AGA. It was at the AGA in Parry Sound where I really felt immersed in Métis culture and really got the sense of how proud Métis people were to be Métis. Although at first it was quite a culture shock for me, it was truly an amazing experience, one that made a huge impression on me and really started to bring to light that being Métis is absolutely something to be proud of.
At the end of the summer, I had already made the decision that I wanted to be involved in the Summer Youth Cultural Program again the following summer. As fate would have it, I am once again involved in this program and feel very dedicated to work hard so that it will grow and flourish. I am very excited that the program has expanded to several more different sites, allowing more opportunity to meet more Métis youth and to create a strong network of support. The program kicked off with an incredible week long training session in Midland where all of the students from each site were able to come together to get to know each other, and learn from a number of different chosen facilitators about Métis history, way of life, culture, as well as skills and arts. The skills that were taught at training were expanded on from last year’s training which included: embroidery, finger weaving, beading, how to make birch bark baskets, rug hooking, jigging, as well as how to gut fish! This training built on my knowledge from the previous year, making me much more confident and once again, sparking up and strengthening the pride of being Métis. I am really starting to feel like my Métis heritage is something to take full ownership of, and be thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with others not only while working, but also during my everyday life with family and friends.
I have been fortunate enough to have been hired with wonderful co-workers: Nikki Doucette, Justine Chalykoff, and Marie Chalykoff, who also echo my enthusiasm and excitement of going out into our community to share with anyone who is willing to learn about Métis people in a fun, interesting, and interactive manner. This year we were able to have full historic attire made for each student to wear while out at events, making our presence very authentic.
The opportunity to visit day camps, day cares, seniors’ residences, as well as participate in community events, would not have been able to occur if it weren’t through the Summer Youth Cultural Program. I really feel that it is important to make these types of contacts, and to have youth who are proud and motivated to be Métis to go out into the communities, and share our knowledge on Métis people and how important and influential Métis people have been to Canada. I have been so impressed with the leadership’s willingness to teach and answer questions not only by our supervisor Scott Carpenter, but also by the contacts that were made at training, as well as the full time employees at our office in Sault Ste. Marie.
I want to thank the Métis Nation of Ontario for making this program possible, and especially for supporting and educating Métis youth and recognizing how important it is to have youth involved in the organization. So far it has been an incredible experience, one that I will definitely continue to pursue and build on, share with others, and carry with me throughout my life! ∞