The nine families and MNO staff members attending the first ever Métis Early Learning Camp this January at the Canadian Ecology Centre in Mattawa, ON.
Métis early learners, ages three to six, and their families were able to share in the vitality of their Métis culture against a stunning backdrop of snow-capped wilderness at the Métis Nation of Ontario’s (MNO) inaugural Metis Early Learning Camp from January 23rd to 26th, 2020.
Nine Métis families travelled to the Canadian Ecology Centre (CEC) near Mattawa, ON where they spent several days engaging in indoor and outdoor activities, and their nights sleeping in individual cabins. Programming was designed for both children and families with a rich agenda that met the needs of both.
Amanda Pont-Shanks, Manager of Early Learning and Childcare at the MNO, was instrumental in making the camp a reality. She believes that the Métis Early Learning Camp fills an important gap in the previous services available to Métis families.
“There are a lot of opportunities for our high school and post-secondary students, but it’s important to include our younger kids in activities that are rooted in our Métis way of life,” said Pont-Shanks. “This is about strengthening our families and communities and supporting our future Métis leaders.”
The vast grounds of the CEC provided a perfect setting to immerse these early learners in their rich Métis culture. MNO and CEC staff members partnered to deliver programming that focused on hands-on and play-based learning. During outdoor activities, the children learned about animal tracks and building snow-enclosures. Indoors, the kids tried their hands at traditional and contemporary Métis art techniques including dot-art, using dyed popcorn kernels; decorating wooden spoons; and even creating their own compasses.
The four days of land-based learning featured activities to benefit not only the children, but parents and guardians as well. The concept of an early learning camp evolved from a resolution made at the Kenora MNO Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2017. That year MNO youth brought forward a resolution to explore more opportunities for Métis parents and adults to attend cultural camps and programming.
Coulter Kelly, a father from Ottawa who attended the camp with his wife Sara and their three children, said, “As a family, it’s been great to be included and spend this quality time with my kids. The staff and programs were excellent and ensured our experience as parents was worry-free which allowed us to immerse ourselves in the programming and camp experience. The kids loved connecting to their Métis culture, [and] learning about animal tracks and jigging. They especially loved the games, which I imagine will become a part of our routine at home!”
Erin Hadaway who attended the camp with two of her sons, praised the breadth of programming saying, “The entire agenda was so full and amazing … with so many cultural aspects. We really found it to be accommodating to all age groups. It’s been wonderful weekend and I’m so grateful to be included!”
While the main objective of the Camp was to provide parents with an opportunity to bond with their families and celebrate their culture, MNO staff ensured that parents would continue to feel supported even after the final suitcase had been packed and the Camp concluded.
“It was really important to us to connect the attending Métis families to our MNO staff, programs, and services. Like the new Childcare Subsidy Program and other wrap around services. Over the course of the camp, we had Education & Training as well as Healing & Wellness staff on site to speak with parents and inform them on available resources to families.” said Pont-Shanks. “We also encouraged them to reach out to their local offices to continue building connections. We want them to know that we’re always here for them.”
Spaces for these camps go quickly, so be sure to check the MNO website and our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for future announcements. For more information on what services are available for Métis families in Ontario, including the new Childcare Subsidy Pilot Program, see the ‘Education & Training’ and ‘Healing & Wellness’ tabs on the MNO website.
Posted: February 13, 2019