Watêjabîgê Day Youth Camp carries on valued hunt and harvest traditions
Throughout August 2021, Stoney youth (aged 12-24) engaged in a day camp organized by Stoney Health Service’s Iyarhe Nakoda Youth program. A program supporting Stoney youth identity through practices rich in culture and tradition.
Hunting, harvesting and preparing the hunt were this year’s focus. Youth, camp coordinators and volunteers set off to locations around the reserve to participate in the day’s featured event. Each day was unique but when possible featured valuable teachings and guidance passed along from Stoney Elders and knowledge keepers, including Chief Clifford Poucette (Wesley First Nation) and Chief Aaron Young (Chiniki First Nation).
The first few week was grounded in foundational teaching. Some youth attained their firearms license and safety training while others fished, learned archery and hand games. Presentations from special guests rounded out the week: Alberta Fish and Wildlife shared info on indigenous hunting rights on and off-reserve, supported by the RCMP, while Stoney Fire Department offered fire safety tips and ways to safely set up a smokehouse.
Once the youth had the basic knowledge, they spent just over a week building smokehouses. This involved cutting trees for poles for the smokehouse. Once they had cut and collected the necessary amount, the group built a smokehouse at several lucky homes around the reserve. One smokehouse took the group about three hours to build including stripping the bark and building the structure. The youth also spent an afternoon at the rifle range and for some this was the first time they had shot a hunting rifle.
The third and final week built on all of the previous weeks’ teachings with hunts and harvests and concluded with the event most looked forward to – the feast! Some youth participated in hunting and one youth harvested their first kill. The remaining group harvested wild mint, picked cranberries and blueberries. The youth were taught to skin and butcher the deer and began preparing the harvest for the week’s big feast at which the community gathered to celebrate and share in the harvest. Check out some highlights from the camp featured in photo galleries below.