One of the main focuses of Dr. Courtney Mason’s research program is Indigenous food security, so when he arrived at TRU it seemed only natural for him to reach out to local community groups to find out how he could learn from them and also share his knowledge.
After meeting with Clarice Silva, Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health and Wellness Coodinator for the White Buffalo Aboriginal and Métis Health Society in North Kamloops, the Canada Research Chair in Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Communities knew he’d found a great fit. Mason first started as a learner volunteering to be involved with ice fishing events put on by White Buffalo for young Indigenous men. He then coordinated with Craig Campbell, an instructor in the Adventure Studies program, to make plans for a series of outdoor opportunities for local Indigenous youth.
Over the past year, Mason and Campbell collaborated to offer learn to fish and water skills events for White Buffalo clients and youth. They have expanded the events to involve Campbell’s Adventure Programming course. Students in the course manage the experiences and take part in the fun. “It’s a great way to contribute back to the community and find further opportunities to reach out,” Campbell said.
“The kids were so excited. They learned about healthy eating, and that you can go out fishing, have fun, and actually eat what you’ve worked so hard for,” said Clarice Silva, Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator for White Buffalo.
While the program teaches practical skills, there’s also something more valuable passed on, she said.
“These kids would normally never have opportunities like this. Some of the kids have mental health issues and anxiety. Too often people think that when you struggle with mental health it’s all about counselling. But so much of it is your physical well-being. Having kids talk to new people and try new things is so important,” she said.
From the first ice-fishing adventure last winter, a muddy spring outing at Bleeker Lake, and a larger event hosted this fall at McConnell Lake, whether they’re paddling in a canoe, reeling in fish, or preparing their freshly caught meal, Mason said the goal is to give children a chance to experience an activity they otherwise wouldn’t. A critical part of that is learning about the land and our relationship to it.
“Our goal really is to provide positive experiences on the land. Some youth grow up next to great salmon rivers but have never fished. There will be teenagers who have never been in a canoe before, so it’s all new for some of them. We view these types of programs as unique learning opportunities to encourage TRU students to integrate with local organizations and contribute to their broader community.”