Infinite Reach March break camp

March Break Camp
(left to right) Front row: Sheila Grantham, Genevieve Routhier, Niki-Lyn Doucette, and Alexandria
Town; Second row: Melanie-Rose Frappier, Tegan Mandeville, Brianne Gosselin; Third row: James
Lane, Joshua Freeman, Brandon Chiddle, Denise Bartolucci, Katrina Harrisson, André
Bourguignon, and Tamara Shepherd; Back row: Tyler and Arron (Ecology Centre staff), Chris Paci,
Tera Beaulieu, Scott France, Melody Chislett-Morris, David Bauer and Chantal Cote

Over March break, Métis high school students from across Ontario gathered at the Canadian Ecology Centre in Mattawa for a four-day retreat designed by the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) to engage Métis high school students in discussions on post-secondary education and to learn about their Métis heritage.

Provisional Council of the MNO (PCMNO) Chair France Picotte, President of the MNO Veteran’s Council Joe Paquette, Senator Dr. Alis Kennedy and Infinite Reach Facilitators were all in attendance and shared their personal experiences with the students.

The local MNO Mattawa Council provided a feast for the students. It was a great evening where students were able to learn about and appreciate the work of MNO community councils.

Throughout their stay, students participated in various cultural activities. They connected with nature while enjoying a snow shoe hike through the beautiful grounds. They were also taught about different tree types while taking a winter hike along the very same waters their voyageur ancestors traveled through.

Traditional Métis crafts were a big hit. Students spent afternoons making beaded medicine pouches and souvenir paddles. They were also taught how to finger weave tradition Métis sashes.

High school student Josh Freeman thoroughly enjoyed the camp. “I didn’t know much about my culture before attending the camp,” he said. “This was a great experience for me to get in touch with my roots and connect with other Métis youth while learning about the future job market and post-secondary opportunities.”

The Ecology Centre provided a tour of the facilities and showcased their animals which included the opportunity to hold a snake. At night, a wolf howl was held and although no wolves howled back it was enjoyed by all. The evenings consisted of delicious meals, free time and camp fire socials.

Along with cultural activities, students were provided an overview on the future job market, information on various post-secondary opportunities, programs and disciplines and took part in a resume workshop.

“Instilling the importance of education is the first step towards something that is truly great,” said Tegan Mandeville, an Infinite Reach Facilitator at Loyalist College. “And you can’t know where you are going in the future if you don’t know where you come from in the past. Being able to help them through this process is pretty amazing.”

Many students showed up to camp as strangers but left as great friends. The camp proved to be a great opportunity for students to build networks not just with each other but with the Infinite Reach facilitators, MNO staff and elected leaders as well.

“This camp gave students the opportunity to regain a sense of cultural value and build a network of community people which one day will benefit them greatly,” said Infinite Reach Facilitator at Sault College Melody Chislett-Morris.

MNO keepsakes and memorabilia were provided to the students which included an Infinite Reach journal, a re-usable water bottle, a traditional Métis sash, a fleece vest and a hoodie messenger bag.

For more information on the Infinite Reach program and how to get involved click here.