THUNDER BAY – Five Junior Canadian Rangers from the Cree communities of Fort Albany and Kashechewan on the James Bay coast stood out during a three-day camping trip for 17 Aboriginal youngsters from the south.
The Junior Rangers were participating in a program run by the Georgian Bay Native Friendship Centre to help Aboriginal youngsters from the Barrie and Midland areas and nearby First Nations, such as Beausoleil and the Chippewas of Rama, to learn about their cultural roots.
“Our boys in the south have bits and pieces of their culture but they don’t have the big picture,” said Suzy Kies, who runs the Centre’s Vision Quest program for boys aged nine to 14. “We are trying to connect southern, urban Aboriginal kids to their culture. It’s really good for my boys to see strong, healthy young men like the Junior Canadian Rangers, who know their culture and who they are.”
The Junior Canadian Rangers are a national Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 o 18 in remote northern communities. Across the Far North of Ontario, there are 750 Junior Rangers in 20 First Nation communities.
The Junior Rangers got involved when the Centre asked the Canadian Armed Forces for help in running the weekend camp, which was held at Hiawatha First Nation on Rice Lake, south of Peterborough.
“We provided a fair a fair bit of support to the activity in the way of personnel and equipment, such as tent sleeping accommodation, cots for the adults, and sleeping bags,” said Captain Caryl Fletcher, officer commanding Junior Canadian Rangers at 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden. “We supported it last year and we’ve taken it a step further this year by bringing five Junior Rangers and a Canadian Ranger escort to it. They’re joining with First Nation youth from southern Ontario and learning a little bit about their culture. I’d like to bring maybe 10 Junior Rangers next year. It’s a good experience for them.”
“The Junior Canadian Rangers are really excited and happy to be here,” said Master Corporal Hannah Nakogee of Fort Albany. “It’s a new experience for them in a different place, and they’re learning new and different things to what they learn back home. There’s a big cultural difference between them and the southern kids.”
Part of the weekend’s training was provided by Caleb Musgrave, a member of the Hiawatha First Nation and an expert in outdoor living. He showed the youngsters from the North and the South how to use what nature provides them in the way of trees and plants and how to use natural products to build a wigwam.
One of the things he showed them was how to get drinking water from a wild grape vine, which only grows in southern Ontario. “It tasted like clean water,” said a surprised Junior Ranger Louis Wesley of Fort Albany. ‘I’ve never seen that before.”
The other Junior Rangers at the camp were Saul Chookomolin, Raine Iahtail and Chris Rose, all from Fort Albany, and James Wesley from Kashechewan.
Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at CFB Borden.