Popular fish camp that teaches traditional skills back for 2nd year

A popular fish camp just outside Yellowknife where people can experience life on the land for a day is back for a second year.

Camp runs for 2 weeks, until Feb. 27

Kaize Roach-Ashoona attended the fish camp earlier this week. He said he learned about respect: 'If you respect the animal, you’ll get respect back.' (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

A popular fish camp just outside Yellowknife where people can experience life on the land for a day is back for a second year. 

Camp Liwe, which means fish in Wiliideh, teaches traditional skills to the general public, including kids of all ages.

Located on Mackenzie Island, just off the Dettah ice road on the shores of Great Slave Lake, the site has wall tents for group workshops on fish cleaning and preparing food. 

The camp began last year, opening up for one week. It proved so popular that the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning and the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife, which run the camp in partnership, decided to reprise it for two weeks this year, starting this week.

They want to know everything

On Tuesday, a group of young people were shuttled by snowmobile to a nearby fishing site to observe nets being set for harvesting fish.

For a lot of kids attending the camp, it's their first time seeing nets being pulled from under the ice to catch fish, said Justina Black, a youth program co-ordinator with Dechinta.

"It's really amazing to see the excitement that they have when they come out, and to see how interested they are in learning what's happening inside of the fish, as well," she said.

Elder Irene Sangris passes on her knowledge of fish to camp participants. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Elder Irene Sangris, one of the teachers at the camp, said she has her hands full, not only with fish guts, but also with answering the barrage of questions that are coming from a very enthusiastic group of campers. 

They want to know everything, from where the heart is, to how fish pee and poo, she said. 

Her mantra throughout the workshops is reminding participants that animals need to be well-treated.

It's a message that resonated with Kaize Roach-Ashoona, a student with Bushkids, an on-the-land learning program. 

"You learn that you have to respect not just the fish, but like everything. If you respect the animal, you'll get respect back," he said.

Students also take part in discussions on First Nations governance and political history at the camp.

Passing on language and culture

"The goal that we had in this camp was to have an opportunity for these knowledge holders and the community members to have a space to pass on the language, and the culture, and the traditional ways of how we would have used these lands," said Black. 

"And it's really great to see that there's a lot of interest from a lot of different organizations and youth who want to know this knowledge."

A group of students attended the fish camp hosted by the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning and the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife. The camp is back for a second year and is running for two weeks. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

The camp, which runs until Feb. 27, is also open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but Black said group activities at the camp are booked solid.

It's been a challenge keeping the camp open to the public because of COVID-19, she said, but organizers have worked diligently to ensure the community is safe and that the rules are being followed. 

Black said demand from youth groups to attend the camp is high. She's hopeful that in the future, they can expand and have a larger space to continue teaching.

"This year we are open for two weeks to the public and we've already filled up our days for a group visit, so it seems that we are going to have to expand it more and more."