For the first time in my life, I recently had the opportunity to skin a muskrat, make dry meat, and hunt, fish and trap. I learned about the hard work it takes to ensure one’s survival on the land, as well as what it means to work together to build community.
All this happened during my week at the cultural camp organized each year by the Aurora College Social Work Program. Elders and support staff from Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndilǫ and Fort Simpson provided us opportunities to learn from the land through oral storytelling and hands-on experience.
Being able to reconnect to the land was a healing experience for me. The land gave me time to reflect about my role as an Indigenous person and as a future social worker in the Northwest Territories. Throughout the land-based learning course, we learned what it means to maintain professionalism as social workers in a northern setting, how to work with people from different cultural backgrounds, and how to develop community. Most importantly, I learned about the value of having an on-the-land program as part of our education in the north.
The experience of working together for the benefit of our camp taught me the importance of working together with respect. I learned to value skills in areas other than reading and writing. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for Dene culture, knowledge, identity, language, traditions, and survival.
— Danita Frost-Arey, Indigenous Literacy Coordinator