"My favorite part of the trip was going fishing; I caught a fish! I also learned how to test for e.coli which I found very interesting, it’s definitely something we should all learn about living in the north."
- anonymous camper
"My favourite part of the trip was becoming friends with people I didn't know before."
- anonymous camper
Actively connecting Indigenous youth to the traditional knowledge of their Cree Culture
The Onakawana Education Fund is a land-based Indigenous learning initiative for young people, rooted in the traditional knowledge of the Moose Cree First Nation. Each year, the fund provides an opportunity for approximately 100 Indigenous youth from across Ontario to visit Camp Onakawana in the wild and beautiful James Bay lowlands, cost free. Onakawana is in Mushkegowuk territory, ancestral homeland of the Moose Cree at the confluence of the Onakawana and Abitibi rivers. Water flows north from here to the Arctic Ocean. The camp is the creation of Moose Cree couple William and Pamela Tozer.
The Tozers have been bringing Indigenous youth to the camp for more than 30 years to take part in traditional Cree activities, such as shelter-making, fishing, paddling, snowshoeing and small-game tracking and trapping. Students learn about the territory’s geography and history from the point of view of its original people. They engage in water monitoring and testing and learn the importance of water stewardship. Indigenous Elders introduce them to traditional arts, such as weaving tamarack birds, beading, moccasin-making, drum-making, painting and encourage creative writing about these experiences.
To date, more than 3,000 young people have participated in the Camp Onakawana experience.
"The land and water have everything you need not only to survive but to flourish. At the same time the bush is teaching you, it’s healing you."
"The heart of the Onakawana Education Fund is to build community and reconnect youth the land and water."