By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY—Pic Mobert and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg youth were among about 50 First Nations youth who participated in the First Nation Natural Resource Youth Employment Program (FNNRYEP) Science Week in Thunder Bay.
“It’s actually a good experience — I’m learning a lot of new things here and there,” says Pic Mobert youth Davina Gagnon. “Visiting the university is a big opportunity because most people don’t really get tours and do activities at Lakehead University, so that is pretty awesome.”
Gagnon also enjoyed learning more about drones and geocaching during Science Week, which was held from July 24-28 at Lakehead University and Confederation College.
“You got to fly the drones for a couple of minutes,” Gagnon says. “There are [geocaching] pinpoints all over campus, and we had to find them with the device. It was hard, but it was fun.”
Science Week is part of the Mink Lake and Sandbar First Nation Youth Employment Program summer camps, which are collaborative projects between industry, the province and local post-secondary institutions. The youth, from 27 First Nation communities across northwestern Ontario, earn wages and two high school co-op credits during the six-week program.
“I find it awesome — I’m really happy to get out of my community to learn new things and do work and get paid for it,” says Pic Mobert youth Cedar Tookenay. “We had a presentation for the Armed Forces, and that gave me a new career option.”
Pic Mobert youth Edgar Desmoulin is back for his second year with the FNNRYEP.
“Last year I didn’t get to do the S100 [forest firefighter training course], but now this year I’m going to be taking that S100 course at the end of the program,” Desmoulin says. “It’s a really great experience being here.”
Biigtigong Nishnaabeg youth and crew leader in-training (CIT) Sage Moses is back for her third year with the FNNRYEP.
“It’s been great — I really love this program,” Moses says, noting that the CITs supervise the other youth, who are called rangers. “For some of them, this is their first job, so we have to teach them about being respectful to one another. All the rangers are really nice and respectful, which is good to see.”
The youth also participated in a discussion with an Elder about water issues facing Indigenous communities across North America and were scheduled for a geologic walking tour through Thunder Bay’s northern downtown area.
“For some of them, it might be the first time that they’ve ever had an opportunity like this,” says Cindy Crowe, a Red Rock Indian Band citizen and lodge keeper of the Blue Sky Community Healing Centre in Thunder Bay who has helped out with the program over the past few years. “It’s pretty exciting — they get to see a variety of options that are open to them, not only education-wise, but job-wise and as individuals to just look at what are the possibilities.”
Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu says that the program provides youth with an opportunity to develop their skills in their own communities.
“Part of those skills that they are developing aren’t just the technical skills, they’re also the comfort in interacting in their community and learning how to interact with different folks and feel comfortable in their own skin,” Hajdu says. “What employers talk about is the need for soft skills, and that is exactly what it is, really, that level of comfort about how to interact with people from all different walks of life. So it’s great.”