Spruce canoe building, rabbit snaring, duck harvesting, map reading and drum making.
Those are just a few of the traditional on-the-land activities young people in Sambaa K’e First Nation — out of school amid the Covid-19 pandemic — will be partaking in over the next 17 weeks thanks to a new youth camp introduced in light of the pandemic.
With youth returning to the small Dehcho community following school closures brought on by the virus, the First Nation launched the initiative to keep kids active and connected with their roots. It began last week.
“The majority of the community and council thought there was a big silver lining in all of this for us Dene people,” said Jessica Jumbo, Sambaa K’e youth counsellor and environmental co-ordinator.
When NNSL Media last caught up with Jumbo, community leaders were encouraging young people to participate in traditional activities out on the land. Those efforts are now organized.
With the territory entering into phase one of its recovery plan late last week – up to 25 people are now allowed to gather outside while practising social distancing – young people are getting out on the land every day – guided by Jumbo and four other supervisors.
They’re being trained in on-the-land skills while receiving traditional language lessons from Elders. Time is also being put aside to help kids with their homework, and GSP-guided scavenger hunts are planned for the summer, Jumbo told NNSL Media.
It’s a positive borne from pandemic. Families are spending more time together and kids are getting the opportunity to immerse themselves in traditional Dene culture, she said.
It’s also helping residents stay connected following the cancellation of several staple events in the community, including its annual spring carnival and lunch program for low income families.
Keeping community members informed
To keep residents up to date on Covid-19-related announcements, Jumbo said community leaders are distributing simplified, easy-to-read newsletters that cut through jargon. Staff at the community’s health centre have been making home visits to Elders — many aren’t English speakers.
Apart from more kids being allowed to gather outdoors at the youth camp, the recent relaxation of restrictions hasn’t made much of a difference in the community, said Jumbo. Early on, the First Nation moved to close its winter access road well ahead of schedule in an effort to keep Covid-19 at bay, and people are still taking the pandemic seriously.