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Kids learn about the land

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 16, 2007

DEH CHO - Twelve youth spent seven days more than 70 kilometres from the nearest community, and they loved it.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Lloyal Letcher, right, shows Joey Moses how to fire a bear banger during an Ecology Camp at Cli Lake. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

The youth were participants in an ecology camp that was held at the North Nahanni Naturalist Lodge on Cli Lake, west of Fort Simpson, from Aug. 8-14.

Looking out the window of the lodge on Aug. 9, Ariel Duntra from Fort Liard remarked how she'd never been in that area before.

"I heard it was really pretty and it's pretty," said Duntra.

Like most of the other youth, she's used to living in towns but enjoyed the chance to be closer to the land.

"It's my favourite time of the year coming out to camp and everything," said fellow camper Rachel Elleze from Fort Providence.

Finishing up a bowl of hearty soup and a bun during lunch, Wrigley's Brandon Moses said there's a lot of benefits to being out in nature.

"You get to eat real food," said Moses between spoonfuls.

Seeing the view of the mountains and lake is also good, Moses said.

This was the fifth year that the camp - sponsored by Dehcho First Nations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) and Municipal and Community Affairs - has been offered.

In addition to allowing participants to visit a different part of the region and meet new friends, the camps are designed to offer a blend of traditional and scientific knowledge, said Loyal Letcher, one of the facilitators at the camp.

"The goal is to promote ecology and to promote the environment and hopefully steer these young people into a career in this field," Letcher said.

One of the benefits of the camps is that every year they're held in a different location. This means that different topics can be covered based on what's available at the site, said Danny Allaire, a facilitator and a wildlife technician with ENR.

Many of this year's camp activities were based on the Nahanni mountain range, where the lodge is located. The youth learned about the geography and history of the area and the activities such as hiking, fishing and photography that people from around the world come to do here, said Letcher.

Also, thanks the local geology, the youth were expected to do a hike up Mount Cli. Most people will probably make it about half way up but some might make the whole distance, Letcher said beforehand.

Also on the schedule were sessions on bear safety, orientation and compass reading, canoe and boat safety, wilderness safety and a firearms safety course. The youth won't be allowed to use live firearms but any participant who's 14 or older will get a safety certificate, he said.

Some traditional knowledge was also mixed in every day. Louisa Moreau taught the youth about traditional and medicinal plant usage while Joseph Tonka was expected to set up fish nets and check them daily. Fish were smoked to make dry fish.

"The days are busy," said Letcher.