On July 24th, a group of Indigenous youth came together at Pathways for a sacred circle and paint ceremony led by Elder, Grant Little Mustache before embarking on their journey through Southern Alberta. All youth and staff received a medicine bag blessed by Grant, for the purpose of collecting and carrying sacred items found throughout their journey.
And indeed, a journey it was!
We traveled far and wide to sleep in teepees, swim in rivers, listen to our Elders, and unleash our spirits! Our group explored everywhere from Okotoks Erratic (“Big Rock”), to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, to Writing-on-Stone, and Blackfoot Crossing. We played games, hiked, swam, and toured every venue. Our desert days reached highs of +35-38, making the thought of ending the trip with a sweat lodge seem almost unbearable! With the extreme heat, we didn’t hesitate to jump into every river we encountered; the Old Man River, Milk River, and Bow River. We ate traditional meals like buffalo stew, bannock, berry soup, pemmican, and Indian tacos. Due to the fire ban, our talking circles huddled tightly around a small propane-lit flame under the starry sky. This was our reflective time of the day; we smudged, listened, shared, and laughed with another.
Many of the youth commented that their favourite location was Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. One young man reflected, “I don’t know what it was about that place. Maybe it was the hoodoos or the spirits that reside in the stone, I felt wild and free. It was so much fun.” A young woman mentioned, “It was really peaceful sitting on the grass overlooking the Milk River. Every once in a while the wind would pick up and the trees sang to me. I felt so present, I felt so alive.”
On July 28th, our travels concluded with a sweat lodge ceremony on Siksika Nation, led by our Elder, Patrick Diagnault. Campers had the opportunity to make an offering of cloth and tobacco, asking for good wishes and blessings. The youth reached outside their comfort zone, with goals to stay in the lodge for one full round, or for all four rounds. One young camper reflected, “I’m so proud of myself. I’ve never lasted more than one round. Today was a very special sweat lodge because I got my Spirit Name, Grey Eagle Boy.”
Campers returned home with a renewed sense of belonging, leadership, and cultural awareness. After having this unique opportunity for self-discovery throughout the course of the camp, many of our young people developed a longing and confidence to delve deeper; to explore their interests, passions, values, and purpose. It was a genuine joy and pleasure to witness such a profound transformation in our youth.
Thank you to the Community Fund for Canada's 150 for generously supporting our camp!