Aboriginal Youth Camp Named After Fred Sasakamoose
Last month, the University of Regina was filled with over 20 First Nations students from all over Saskatchewan to attend the Fred Sasakamoose Aboriginal Youth Leadership & Wellness Program. This year is their 3rd year hosting it but it’s their first year with the name change.
The camp incorporated 5 mentors from the Regina community and they were trained by the Health Advocacy and Research Training (HART) program to prepare them for the camp.
Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) researcher JoLee Sasakamoose said the HART project partnered with the camp to train the mentors.
“We tried to pick people who we knew stood out as leaders. We’ve already had people inquiring about how they can be a part of this program next year,” said Sasakamoose.
The mentors learned team building, wellness and leadership skills to apply to their roles in the camp.
“They open every day with a smudge circle, yoga & meditation at 9. Then they start self-reflective work, looking at how to be better people,” she said.
Nicole Akan, one of the camp mentors and assistant organizer, said this is her third year involved in the camp. They invited Fred Sasakamoose in the previous year to be a keynote speaker and they were inspired by his life story, which led their decision to change the name of the camp.
“We wanted to honor him and we just wanted to continue to have him be a huge part of this program for years to come,” said Akan.
Sasakamoose, both a residential school survivor and former chief, was the first Aboriginal hockey player to play in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks when he was 19 years old.
“We want the name to be known and this year we already had a waiting list, we had to refuse quite a few applications,” said Akan.
The camp consisted of many guest speakers including the man himself, Fred Sasakamoose. He said he felt honored to have the camp named after him.
“It’s nice to name a program after me. It brought a lot of kids here. It’s wonderful being able to see that it’s something being done for the youth,” said Sasakamoose.
The camp had organized various activities for the youth including presentations from role models, tipi raising, a pipe ceremony and even a game of water polo. A sport favored by many camp participants including Zachary Strongarm.
Strongarm, in grade 10 from George Gordon First Nation, said he was asked if he was interested in attending the camp from his school. He agreed and said the camp wasn’t what he had in mind.
“I just thought it’d be like workshops. I like it a lot; it was more than what I expected. We played some games and had some fun exercising,” said Strongarm.
The camp targeted Aboriginal youth with health and wellness as their mandate and also to make it fun for future camp participants.
“If anyone else comes here, they’ll probably like it the same way I did,” adds Strongarm.
The camp ended on May 31st with participants who taking their gained knowledge, skills and memories back to their communities.
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Research Assistant – Communications and Knowledge Translation