With over 140 children and youth attending Mish Adventures Camp this summer, we relied heavily on the Senior Youth from Mishkeegogamang First Nation to run our day-camp programs each day. Whether it was running a station, leading a group or cooking lunch, this year’s group of Senior Leaders was awesome and really made the camp program what it was.
Our Senior Leadership program has been running for four years, providing youth from Mishkeegogamang with opportunities for leadership development and a space to cultivate their own, unique leadership skills. As the youth have grown, they have been offered full-time jobs as camp staff. Year after year, the youth astonish us as they naturally lead their groups, creatively interact with children and help out throughout the day in so many ways.
This year it was amazing to watch the youth see themselves as leaders and make decisions based on their own confidence, maturity and strength. Whether it was Claudia continuing to lead the same group of twelve 6-8 year olds day after day even when she was tired or Savannah’s desire to join “her girls” (a group of ten 7-9 year old girls) for the day’s activities because “they won’t follow anyone else” even when she was sick, the youth of Mishkeegogamang knew that as leaders they sometimes had to make choices that were not easy, for the good of camp and the children in their community.
One youth that really showed what it means to be a strong leader this year was Zuriel. Zuriel decided to be a group leader this year and be responsible for a group of ten 9-11 year old boys. Day after day, he would gather his boys together and give them a quick pep-talk in the morning about the good choices they could make and how important it is to listen. “Papa Nine”, as he affectionately became known as by the boys of Group 9, encouraged the boys to participate in the camp activities and showed, by example, how to be respectful and responsible. It is these leaders from Mishkeegogamang First Nation that truly highlight what Mish Adventures Camp is - a place to grow and develop who Creator desires you to be. We look forward to continuing this journey with these leaders in the years to come!
Sixteen years ago, on a farm outside of Edmonton Alberta, Terry and Bev LeBlanc started the first Kids Culture Camp (KCC). They had a dream to see Indigenous kids and youth experience a Creator-centered, life-giving family camp environment, where they could enjoy summer activities, while learning more about their unique cultural heritage and traditions. With humble beginnings, KCC began a journey that has continued to this day.
The 16th Annual Kids Culture Camp was an incredible legacy to those initial years of offering the camp. This year we saw 38 kids and youth from around Alberta join us at the Intervarsity Sundre Camp for 5 days of teaching, games, and other activities. We begin each morning as a big group, spending time to smudge, thank Creator for the day and hear a brief teaching around our theme of Kinanaskomitin, Thankfulness (lit. “I thank you” in Woodlands Cree). For the rest of the mornings, we dedicated the time to teachings on the land. Each of the five clan groups would rotate through activities such as traditional drumming and dancing, canoeing, tipi teachings, and exploration and learning’s from the land itself. The afternoons were then filled with camp activities like horseback riding, swimming, crafts, wall climbing, and archery.
This year we also realized the first offering of both a young men’s and young women’s leadership program we call Oskapew. The women’s group was lead by Michelle Nieviadomy and Sam Bird, while the men’s group was lead by Terry and Matt LeBlanc. The program looks at offering young men and women from age 13-16, the opportunity to continue their leadership development through serving the KCC camp week, as well as offering unique learning experiences through the time at KCC. This year we focused on building and participating in a sweat lodge.
The success of the week would not have been possible without the incredible staff and volunteers that committed their time and energy into the camp. We had over 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous volunteers from across Canada who offered themselves in service of these young people, creating the safe space for the kids to enjoy and experience and atmosphere of love and respect throughout their time. Our partner, Intervarsity Sundre Camp, has continued to walk with us and learn with us on this road of living together in the land in a good way. We are deeply moved by their heart and passion for this camp.
To all who continue to support KCC, as volunteers, staff, or through financial giving, we say Kinanaskomitinan!! “We thank you” and are most grateful for your partnership!