By Taylor Galvin, Land Based Camp Coordinator
From August 12th to 14th Kis Kin Ha Ma Ki Win made its way to the Northwestern Ontario community of Couchiching First Nation. And what an adventure it was!
On day one of the camp we started with breakfast and got to talk one-on-one with the youth as they began to show up. On the first day of the camp there is always this positive and invigorating energy around the grounds. New participants are eager to learn.
After breakfast, we started the camp with a drum ceremony and songs which were brought to us from a community member. Afterwards, everyone participated in a smudge, prayer and then opening remarks. With our hearts and soul blessed and ready we began the camp with learning science terminology and why we were there. This part of the presentation is always fun to watch as you see the youth and elders learning together and really paying attention to what types of tests we are doing, and how it affects their community.
One of the main goals of kis kin ha ki win camps is to bridge that gap between elders and youth. Having them learn how to run the mobile labs, share stories, and interact with each other is one of my favorite parts. A lot of the communities we visit have had their land and water resources affected negatively in some way or another. Whether that be from hydro or other environmental impacts. Listening to the elders explain to the youth how much it has changed is a lesson they will never forget.
Continuing with day one, we also had the ice dyeing workshop (which is always a big hit), going to different locations in the community to get water samples, and running the more elaborate water tests such as e.coli so the results would be ready for the next day. In the evening we went on a boat tour of the Couchiching and stopped at a sacred island where the first chiefs and council members met.
On day two, we started with an opening prayer, song and elder teachings. The kids were excited to begin the water tests yet again. We tested for copper, lead, nitrates, ammonia, etc. The youth also got the chance to paint with watercolors and salt. Following lunch we packed up the vehicles and all headed out for a few more water samples. It turns out that Couchiching First Nation was once the home of a pulp and paper mill and now have contaminated soils. We had the opportunity to visit the old site and take soil samples. We have yet to get the results as they needed to be sent to a commercial lab.
On the final day, as we usually did, we reviewed the results of the water tests and then spent the afternoon playing games, hanging out, laughing, and then saying our good-byes. It is always hard on the last day knowing you’re leaving, but one of the great parts is knowing that you made new friends, influenced new ideas to the youth and learned along the way.