Métis youth joined together to reflect and hold space for one another at the Expressions of Wellness Through Culture Winter Youth Retreat from January 27 to 29, 2023. Gathering at the Canadian Ecology Centre in Mattawa, the weekend marked the Metis Nation of Ontario Youth Council’s (MNOYC) first-ever youth retreat in collaboration with the Weaving Wellness Centre.
MNO citizens ages 18-29 connected with the land, their Métis culture and one another throughout their time at the retreat, with a weekend filled with learning and sharing.
Upon arrival, all campers were welcomed by MNO North Channel Métis Council Senator Donna Grenier, followed by warm greetings and introductions to the Ecology Centre staff and all those in attendance.
The following morning started off with bundle building and teachings, where youth shared about items and ideas they hold sacred within their own bundles. Following the sharing circle, all those who wished to join enjoyed an art project using clay, paint, markers and more.
The Canadian Ecology Centre is nestled in the heart of Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park so outdoor activities like snowshoeing and evening campfires were a big part of the weekend agenda. Participants enjoyed a hike through the forest and were treated to beautiful snowscape views above the Mattawa river.
A popular activity for the campers was the Tea and Salve Making discussion run by indigenous artist and social worker Shane Camastro. The presentation explored different types of plants, their medicinal properties and uses. Following the presentation, attendees were invited to make their own teas with a mix of hand-picked and locally sourced plants.
“I’m really honored that I have this opportunity — learning about the plants and the medicines and what their uses are has inspired me,” said participant Leah St. Germain.
“I’ve been having a blast at the Youth Retreat, it’s so great getting to know more people, especially people that you share a culture with. The workshops have been so cool and interesting,” said Kaitlyn Anderson-Mitchell.
Participant Jake Chalmers added, “It was a great experience for all of us to get together and meet fellow youth because a lot of us can’t network with each other without events like this. It brings us together and makes us feel like a family.”
Unexpected severe weather caused flight cancellations on the journey home, but in true Métis fashion the community stepped up for each other, and participants carpooled to their shared destinations.
Thanks to the support of staff, organizers, and campers, the MNOYC hopes to hold similar opportunities in the future! Make sure to follow @MNOYC on Instagram or Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council on Facebook for upcoming events.