Métis youth wouldn’t let anything get in the way of attending the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Hivernant Winter Camp Experience.

A group of 14 Métis youth travelled to Thunder Bay for the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Métis Youth Cultural Camp (MYCC) the weekend of March 23-26.

The students involved wouldn’t have missed it.

The camp is the first of four, happening seasonally throughout 2018. They connect youth from across Ontario, in the same way as the MNO’s annual March Break Camp, where several of the campers first met.

“Every time I come I have fun, I retain a lot of information, I have good memories and I make really, really good friends,” Page Chartrand said of the camp experience.

The camp, called Hivernant, which is French for winterers, aimed to teach participants outdoor skills used at the winter villages during the fur trade. It took place at Fort William Historical Park, which recreates the days of the North West Company and the Canadian fur trade with its more than 50 heritage and modern buildings on 250 acres.

This was Dalton Latondress’ first time attending an MNO youth camp. He said being at the historical park was a special experience because he felt as though he was walking in the footsteps of his ancestors.

“The camp is probably the best place for Métis youth to come and stay connected to their traditions and their culture, to find a sense of identity and meet some amazing Métis youth,” he said.

Friendships form fast. For MNO Manager of Projects and Partnership Scott Carpenter, it’s one of the best parts of seeing the camps come to fruition.

“You see them develop socially, as well as learn more about their culture and you see that pride in them grow as the days progress,” Carpenter said, adding a goal of the experience is to instill that pride, so that it’s passed down for generations to come.

The cultural program for the camp included a mixture of outdoor activities — which focused on teaching leadership, survival skills and spending time on the land — and activities like beading and quillwork.

These activities support the youth in discovering their Métis heritage and identity.
It has made a difference for Grade 12 student Reagan Sicard, from Markdale.

She describes going through a rough patch personally and said things started to change after attending some of the MNO’s camps, including Hivernant.

“I don’t feel like something is missing anymore. These camps are important not only because they teach us, but because they connect us.”

Métis culture and heritage hasn’t always been celebrated, but that’s changing, according to MNO citizen Courtney Vaughan, who works as an Assistant Co-ordinator for Challenges Canada which helped facilitate the camp and was part of the 2017 MNO Canoe Expedition. She has noticed a new level of acceptance and identity in today’s Métis youth.

“I don’t hear that fear in the youth and I think that’s so powerful. There’s this excitement and this pride.”

During the first day, campers travelled about an hour northwest of the historical park to a secluded lake where they learned about ice safety, manually drilled holes for ice fishing, dropped fishing lines and started a fire. Back at the Fort, they received lessons in stripping quills from a porcupine and how to use them in the art of quilling.

The next day, at Pass Lake, campers used what they learned out on the lake and were taught about trapping, creating snares and stretching a beaver pelt.

To commemorate the experience, the students were presented with sashes, and flint and steel to fill the striker bags they created.

For a full photo gallery from the experience, visit the MNO Facebook page.

Posted: April 19, 2018