Manitoba Blue Cross is proud to support a partnership between Assiniboine Park and Seven Oaks School Division that brings together Indigenous youth and Elders in a program of land-based teachings.
Every summer, Indigenous youth gather for the Indigenous Youth Storytelling Program – a program created to educate youth and advance reconciliation. It provides Indigenous people the opportunity to share their traditions, wisdom and connection with the land. The program also supports mentoring relationships between Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers and Indigenous youth.
“These traditional teachings stay with them for life – youth need constant teachings, however, it isn’t a one-and-done situation,” says Elder Mary Courchene, who mentors participants. “Youth know who they are deep down, but they need direction and experience to guide their sense of belonging. By providing youth with the opportunity to be closer to the land and with teachings, they are able to build their sense of identity.”
In 2021, the program’s first year, youth participated in nine gatherings within Assiniboine Park and Forest. There, they were mentored by five Knowledge Keepers and Elders, with a focus on land-based teachings. At the end of the program, participants gifted their stories to Assiniboine Park, where they are now displayed on a central pathway in the park.
"Over the summer I’ve learned leadership, independence, how to be a role model and how to talk in front of such a big group,” said Brooke, one of the student participants.
“This program definitely focused on land-based teaching, which I really appreciated,” said Tess, another participant. “I think that if you’re learning about nature and plants, you should be outside where you can see them full of life, as opposed to in a classroom looking at photographs of them.”
This year’s Indigenous Youth Storytelling Program begins in late June and ends in August.
To read last year’s stories, visit the Assiniboine Park website.