Métis Youth Team Picture in Winter
Métis youth at Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay for the MNO’s Ivèr Youth Culture Camp.

Métis youth from all corners of Ontario made their way to Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay to celebrate their Métis culture during the Métis Nation of Ontario’s (MNO) Ivèr Youth Cultural Camp from Feb. 1 to 4.

Nineteen students between the ages of 15 and 17 spent three days in Northern Ontario, engaged in activities rooted in their Métis way of life while also getting a glimpse into the history of the Canadian Fur trade.

The students spent time hiking, fishing, beading and even dancing as their Métis ancestors would have in the early 1800s.

On the first day, students were introduced to each other and their councilors as well as the staff at the fort. Fort William staff dress and act as those who would have lived at the fort in 1816.

After a brief introduction and some ice breaker games, the youth and councilors were brought into the dining hall and taught about life at the fort by the proprietor, “Dr. John McLoughlin” and were served a nourishing dinner by the fort staff.

The days began early and for day two, a hike was scheduled through Trowbridge Falls park to Cascades Conservation area. Along the hike route, students were introduced to flora important to the Métis way of life, such as cedar and birch trees.

At the end of the hike, the youth were joined by Thunder Bay Region Métis councilor Deb Grebenc and Captain of the Hunt for Region 2 Phil McGuire and were taught about trapping.

At the end of the hike, the youth were taught about trapping. They were shown several different kinds of traps such as snag lines and conibear traps and they were also given the opportunity to see and touch different fur types.

The students also learned about the modern fur trade and how one can trap, clean, prepare and sell furs. While not the career choice it used to be its still a way of life for a lot of Métis people in Ontario.

After heading back to the fort and eating dinner the students were then taught how to cook popped rice over a fire and two of the youth took it upon themselves to teach the others some traditional Métis dances—the heal-toe polka and the seven-step.

Day three consisted of ice fishing at the Hazelwood Lake Conservation area where the students were joined by MNO President Margaret Froh.

“Over the last few days these young Métis have been out on the land and I have to say these kids are amazing,” said Froh. “They are a very strong and a very spirited group and they have really taken time out from their busy lives to come and really celebrate who we are as Métis people.”

After a day on the ice the kids were given time to dance, bead and enjoy a relaxing fire before heading off to bed to get ready for the travel day to come.

“I’ve learned so much about my culture over the last few days,” said Samantha Rosenfeldt, one of the students on the trip. “And I know I’ve made life-long friendships in my time here.”

MNO staff member Scott Carpenter has headed up the Youth Cultural Camp program for the last several years. As a Métis citizen, Scott understands the importance of exposing the kids to life on the land.

“I grew up on the land,” said Carpenter. “My father and grandfather taught me the significance of the connection between the Métis and the outdoors and I wanted to continue that tradition to other Métis youth.”

There are five Métis culture camps per year, one for each season and March break. The next camp will be held in mid-March and information for registering for that and future camps can be found on the Métis Nation of Ontario website.

Click here to see more photos from the MNO’s Ivèr Youth Culture Camp.

Applications for the MNO’s next Youth Culture Camp, the Infinite Reach March Break Camp.

This article was first published on Feb. 18, 2020.