If you were a Mi’kmaq teenager, what could be better than to spend a week this summer on the Bras d’Or Lakes, reconnecting with nature, learning all about natural resources and traditional Mi’kmaq values and practices?
During the past week, that is exactly what has been happening at Nikani Awtiken, a summer camp for Mi’kmaq youth taking place at Camp Rankin near St. Peter’s.
Twenty-five teenagers from across Nova Scotia signed on to take workshops and field trips led by resource experts and Mi’kmaq Elders, who provide training in a wide range of skills including forest management, native species and medicinal plant identification, invasive species, GPS use, chainsaw and boating safety, team building, leadership skills, first aid, professional work ethics and traditional Mi’kmaq knowledge. IN addition to the day-time activities, there are also nightly campfires, a day of eel spearing, a sweat lodge and a hike to Kluskap’s Cave, plus a feast and community BBQ.
Nadine LeFort is Education & Outreach Coordinator at Mi’kmaq Education Learning Centre (MELC) and over the past few months she has been arranging the camp activities, recruiting the participants, hiring staff and attending to the many, many details involved in a project of this scope.
“Nikani Awtiken is a Mi’kmaq phrase that means ‘trail blazing’ or ‘creating a new path’,” explains LeFort. “And while this is our second year in hosting the camp, every year is a new adventure. If the responses from last year are any indication, we can expect another great year as participants develop new confidence and skills that we hope will lead to careers in natural resources or conservation.”
Funding for this year’s Nikani Awtiken was provided by Nova Scotia Departments of Natural Resources and Education, Walmart Evergreen, UINR, Cape Breton University, Membertou Recreation Association, Port Hawkesbury Paper, and Premium Seafoods, Eskasoni, Waycobah and Pictou Landing Band Councils.