Printen smlEvan Logue, Emma Bremner, Joshua Bombardier, Logan
Daoust, Sarah McCaveney, Donelle Tynes, Janna Rose,
Noah McKenzie, Leah St. Germain, Tanner Tremblay, Kay
Latham, Piper Sicard and Kaylee Wilkes participated in
Printen: A Métis Spring Camp Experience in Tiny, Ont.
from May 24-26. Click here to view a larger version of this

Walking among blooming trilliums that covered the forest floor, 13 Métis high school students from across the province foraged for morels and leeks during the first ever Printen: A Métis Spring Camp Experience.

In the bush, campers found crinkle root, large patches of wild leeks and even a few false morels. The leeks were added to the evening’s dinner.

The experience was part of a four-day Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) camp from May 24-27, which taught the Métis students about how their ancestors lived off the land. The campers also tried their hands at catching, cleaning and cooking fish, compass navigation and embroidery.

The camp is the second in a series of five Métis Youth Cultural Camps, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. The camps coincide with the seasons to expand youth understanding of traditional knowledge and languages and to provide leadership skills training through land-based activities. The name of the camp, “Printen” is Michif for spring.

Of the 13 students who attended, five participated in the previous winter Hivernant camp.

“I really wanted to come to this camp, because where I’m from there aren’t a lot of people who share my [history] that are Métis that I can find,” said Leah St. Germain, a first-time camp participant from Oakville.

“I also wanted to learn a lot more about myself. I wanted to learn a lot more about my culture so that I could feel more connected to my past because it’s a really rich culture and an amazing opportunity.”

Though pretty confident with her fishing skills before arriving, she said she still had a lot to learn.

The campers caught some catfish and perch and learned how to clean trout.

“It has been easier to learn what my ancestors did instead of learning in a classroom,” said Noah McKenzie, from Windsor. “Doing what they did actually makes you feel more connected.”

That’s the whole idea behind the camps, according to Scott Carpenter, MNO Manager, Education, Way of Life and Special Projects.

“We’re trying to share these traditions like they would learn from their parents, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, or friends in a very social way,” he said.

“Every season had something that our ancestors did in order to prepare for winter. Even talking to our youth about preserving — it’s just those simple things that our ancestors had to do in order to survive and we’re sharing that with the kids. Hopefully they’ll get an appreciation for what our ancestors had to go through.”

During the camp’s closing, students each shared what they enjoyed about and learned during the camp.

From new friendships, to actually finding edible plants in the bush or catching a fish, there were a lot of highlights. The nerves that were present on day one had lifted when it came time to say their goodbyes.

“It’s cool because as soon as you come here you know you all have something in common because you’re all Métis. Just from doing icebreakers and stuff you get to know people really fast,” said Donelle Tynes.

Traditional Knowledge holder and MNO citizen Victor Brunelle trekked alongside the campers the whole way, showing them how to harvest the leeks, leading them on hikes, helping with the fishing and sharing his own personal stories.

“Their ancestors had to look every day. Every day they had to find some way of feeding their families and that had to come from harvesting of some sort and it was different in every season,” said Brunelle.

“If [campers] can leave here with some pride, some honour and some respect about where they come from and the people around them and what they are trying to teach them, if they take that home and grow from that, that’s worth a lot.”

The camp isn’t the end, said Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) Senator Verna Porter-Brunelle in her closing remarks, which was followed by the presentation of Métis sashes to first-time campers.

“It sounds like you really put your heart and soul into this, but this isn’t where it ends. When you leave here you’re taking what you learned with you. Bring it to your friends, bring it to your community, talk to your family, tell them what you learned. This is where we spread the Métis word that we are Métis and we are a proud people.”

Click here to see more photos from the camp.

Posted: June 14, 2018