The Canadian Army hosted a five-day skills development and leadership camp for Aboriginal youth in Saskatchewan from August 18-22, 2014. Called Eagle’s Nest, the camp was held at the First Nations community of Muskeg Lake, approximately 100 km north of Saskatoon. The five-day leadership camp mimics a realistic Canadian Army exercise. Participants wear military uniforms and participate in basic military training, all while respecting First Nations culture and traditions. The candidates and course staff are expected to learn from each other. “The goal is not for recruitment – if they have questions about the military, we’ll answer them – its really about building leadership, teamwork and life skills,” said Lt. Jennifer McGregor, camp instructor.
Eagle’s Nest Aboriginal Youth Leadership Camp is a Canadian Army-led initiative. It receives support from the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces, along with First Nations communities and organizations across Canada. “Aboriginals have a long and proud history in the Canadian Armed Forces and have played an integral part in defending Canada. Programs like Eagle’s Nest, continue that tradition by giving Aboriginal youth a unique opportunity to experience the type of work the men and women of the Canadian Army do and how they train,” said Honourable Rob Nicholson, PC, QC, MP for Niagara Falls and Minister of National Defence.
As camp Eagle’s Nest comes to a close participants reflect on the skills they have developed. “For the few days I was the Course Senior. I was in charge of all the other candidates. I definitely learned new leadership skills,” said Brandon Sanger, camp candidate. Activities designed to reflect the challenges of being in the Canadian Army posed multiple adversities to the Aboriginal campers. “I didn’t expect to build shelters in the bush. We had to use whatever we could find to survive. Very difficult,” said Brooklyn Bird, camp candidate.
Last year’s Soaring Bird Aboriginal youth leadership camp was the pilot project, held in the community of Zhiibaahaasing on Manitoulin Island, ON. Soaring Bird attracted 30 participants from the First Nations communities of the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising and from Wikemikong First Nations of Manitoulin Island. Camp Eagle’s Nest was developed following the template of Camp Soaring Bird. “I am extremely proud of the Eagle’s Nest program. Aboriginal youth were offered insight into military life while developing and growing leadership skills. At the same time, our soldiers have the opportunity to experience the heritage, history and culture of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. We are committed to building upon and maintaining our existing relationship with First Nations communities,” said Lt.-Gen Marquis Hainse, Commander Canadian Army. In addition to Aboriginal youth summer programs such as Eagle’s Nest, the Canadian Armed Forces offers other Aboriginal development programs, such as the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year, the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program and Aboriginal Summer Programs Bold Eagle, Raven and Black Bear.