A group of girls in Pinaymootang First Nation are learning on-the-land survival techniques like how to build teepees this week at a camp sponsored by a local entrepreneur.
Caidence Marsden, 12, had to work through rain to set up a teepee on Monday.
“It was fun. It was a little bit hard at first, but we got it,” she said.
Marsden and a couple of her friends said they joined the summer camp to get off their phones, get outside and connect with other girls in the community.
The five-day camp is a chance for the girls to learn how to make fried bannock and saskatoon berry jam on an open fire, it’s also an opportunity to hear from guest speakers about topics that include mental health and healthy relationships.
“[We learned how] to build a teepee and we learned how to not get lost in the woods,” said Marsden.
The summer camp was organized and funded by Brandi Woodhouse, owner of RezGal Lashes.
“It’s a camp to empower them, to build their self-confidence, just to give them life skills and to have a good time hanging out together,” said Woodhouse.
Woodhouse is from Pinaymootang, which is 219 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Last year, she started RezGal Lashes, a company that sells false eyelashes, cosmetics and clothing.
Woodhouse said she put on the week-long day camp for girls aged 12-14 from her community because she wanted to do something to give back.
“When I was 12 to 14 . . . I kind of wanted some guidance,” said Woodhouse.
“I have facilitators coming every day and giving them advice and building up their skills. And I think later on in life, it’ll benefit them.”
On Monday, Elissa Gabriel from Misipawistik Cree Nation showed the girls how to make a fire. She also shared some land-based survival techniques, as well as some traditional medicine teachings.
As someone who runs transition programming for people who move from their First Nation to Winnipeg, Gabriel said being on the land and teaching girls is therapy.
“As a community, we need women with a variety of gifts to come together and to show the young women how to live off the land, cook outside and even to help each other,” said Gabriel.
On Tuesday, Cree author and educator Tasha Spillett-Sumner visited the camp with her mother Leslie Spillett to share some traditional teachings.
She said she appreciated that the camp was led by young Indigenous women bringing back traditional knowledge and practices to their families.
“They aren’t talking about the work of community building, they are out on the land doing the work and bringing younger people along with them. That is true leadership,” said Spillett-Sumner.
The camp is expected to include a pizza party and canoe trip on the Fairford River. Woodhouse said she would like to hold similar camps for girls in the nearby First Nations in Manitoba’s Interlake Region.