Opaskwayak Cree Nation student plans virtual ice fishing derby

A high school student in Opaskwayak Cree Nation is helping his community reel in some fun by organizing a virtual family ice fishing derby.

Blaze Head wanted to organize an event to get people outdoors and lift spirits

Blaze Head organized a virtual ice fishing derby for families in Opaskwayak Cree Nation. There are prizes for the biggest fish, ugliest fish and best video on how to fillet a fish. (Steven Feyereisen)

A high school student in Opaskwayak Cree Nation is helping his community reel in some fun by organizing a virtual family ice fishing derby.

"I really wanted to do something for my community after this hard winter. I thought this would be a good way to help the community and it definitely has," said Blaze Head.

Head is a Grade 12 student at the Margaret Barbour Collegiate Institute in The Pas, Man.

In January he joined Project Learning Tree Canada's Green Leaders Program. The program mentors 10 Indigenous youth from across the country to help plan and implement a community-based project. It also includes a $1,500 grant to help the young people execute their project. 

As someone who loves fishing and the outdoors, Head wanted to get people in his community out of their homes. 

"Everyone's been getting hit hard and doing this is really making myself happy and a lot of elders happy," said Head.

Head had to organize the fishing derby in a way that people in the community could practise physical distancing. (Blaze Head)

Originally he wanted to do a 100-person fishing derby but was denied because of COVID-19 protocols in the community. 

He switched to a week-long "virtual family ice fishing derby" which asked people to register beforehand, and to send in photos and videos of the fish that are caught.

Head is using the $1,500 from the program and another $1,500 from various organizations in Opaskwayak Cree Nation to pay for prizes in categories including biggest fish, ugliest fish and keeping the tradition alive (teaching your child how to fillet a fish).

Building skills

The virtual family ice fishing derby is the first of the 10 Green Leaders Program community projects to take place this year.

Mira Williamson, a communications consultant for Project Learning Tree Canada, said another project features a gardening webinar where the student will teach people how to grow food.

"The goals are to help Indigenous youth grow their green job networks, build professional and personal skills and engage these communities with the projects that they are planning," said Williamson.

Williamson has been able to help co-ordinate the virtual fishing derby and applauded Head for being able to create partnerships with local businesses and organizations.

While Head hasn't been able to take part in the fishing derby thanks to his organizing duties, he said he is happy to see all of the families out on the Saskatchewan River.

He plans on going into a welding program after high school and possibly into the natural resources industry later.

The fishing derby runs until March 21.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1