By: Deanna, Camp Staff
Mishkeegogamang is a beautiful community that I have been blessed to spend the month of July in for the last four years. Yet, for all the time I have been fortunate to spend here, and all the energy I put into running Mish Adventure’s children and youth programming, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to give back enough to balance out the things I have learned and the rich relationships I have formed.
To see the youth move through our camp program over the last eight years and now act as Junior Leaders to kids younger than them elicits tears of joy from our staff who have the honour of working with these incredible young leaders.
The reality that First Nations young people grow up with is that they are some of the most marginalized people on the planet. The truth is that First Nations young people are an incredible bunch of talented individuals who have inherited oppressive and traumatic stories from unjust practices committed against their people for decades.
Amidst such staggering social circumstances, what can a small camp for one month of the year hope to accomplish? The answer is Friendship.
It is from friendship that we as non-Indigenous people in Canada are given the gift of our young friends stories.
It is from friendship that we are able to see where these staggering social circumstances grow out of, and what lies at the root causes of major systems that continue to harm Indigenous communities.
It is from friendship that we are able to act as supports to young people whose stories are caught up in cycles and histories we previously did not understand.
It is from friendships built on encouragement that we have seen the youth of Mishkeegogamang grow in their maturity, strength, wisdom, and gifts.
It is from friendship that I am humbled and energized to push back on the systems that continue to disproportionately harm my young friends.
It is from friendship that I have watched staff from our team pursue areas they never thought their life would take them: teaching in First Nations communities; teaching non-indigenous communities the history of what happened to Indigenous communities in North America; Nursing in remote communities; pursuing Aboriginal studies; interrogating theologies that perpetuate the harms committed by both church and state; and students hoping to become doctors in reserve communities.
It is from friendship that acts of listening, love, and encouragement can begin to slow and eventually stop the cycles of neglect and trauma First Nations communities too often experience. Slowly over time, it may slow these cycles down as more and more sticks of friendship and love become lodged in the wheels of injustice.
It is from friendship that we are watching young leaders reclaim life in their families, schools, and communities.
It is from friendship that camp moves beyond a simple one month program, and into a way of being where we begin together to live in a collective narrative.
It is from friendship that I have changed.
So What Can Camp Do? What Can Friendship Do? It can turn enemies into friends, hostility into understanding, loneliness into support, and gifts and potential into reality and beauty. It can change us, and maybe, just maybe, it can teach us that we all need healing, and begin to heal us all too.