Indigenous Alberta youth reconnect with nature and culture at Ghost River Rediscovery camp
City kids sleep in teepees and learn Aboriginal traditions from Blackfoot, Cree and Metis elders
By Danielle Nerman, CBC News, July 27, 2016
The Ghost River Rediscovery camp west of Calgary can only be reached by gravel road and a river crossing.
While the journey through the wooded forest of the Stoney Nation is not super strenuous, it can be daunting for campers who have never lived off the grid.
“A lot of these kids are pretty city-based. So we’ve got kids who have never camped before, never built shelter, don’t know how build fire,” said Kristie Schneider, the camp’s director of operations.
“Having the courage to come, and the courage to stay is an epic achievement in and of itself.”
Most of the campers are Indigenous Albertans between the ages of eight and 19 who have had little opportunity to explore their First Nations roots.
“They grew up in non-Aboriginal families, they’re being fostered, so they haven’t had access to the culture,” said Schneider.
‘It’s a powerful place’
Over the course of five to 10 days, Cree, Metis and Blackfoot elders teach campers survival skills and lead them through smudge and sweat ceremonies.
“Ceremony is very important to this program because this is where a lot of the youth are coming out, they want to reconnect with their own tradition,” said Randy Bottle of the Blood Tribe.
The accommodation is also traditional, with up to eight campers sleeping under the stars in massive canvas teepees.
“You can imagine what it looks like when the full moon is out. Yeah, it’s a powerful place, a very spiritual place. This is where a lot of the pretty amazing lessons are taught,” said Schneider.
The camp runs all summer and does leave a few spots open for non-Indigenous youth.