Bold Eagle 2018 graduation seen as a ‘family tradition’

Article / October 11, 2018 / Project number: 18-0364

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By Ashley Materi, 3rd Canadian Division Public Affairs

Wainwright, Alberta — Three graduates from two generations of the same Indigenous family have nothing but praise for the Canadian Army’s Bold Eagle program, which wrapped up its 29th annual course with a graduation ceremony that showcased  Indigenous cultural performances and military tradition on August 16, 2018.

For almost three decades, the Bold Eagle program has brought Indigenous youth from across western and northern Canada to participate in a challenging, rewarding course. At the graduation parade that wraps up the annual course, family and friends gather to celebrate the accomplishments of those who have successfully completed the six weeks of military training and cultural teachings.

While each graduating participant is a cause for celebration, it is especially poignant when those in attendance are graduates of the program themselves. Frequently, there are parents, siblings, cousins, and grandparents who proudly watch the graduation parade who have completed the program in years past, resulting in Bold Eagle becoming a “family tradition” for many.

This can be said for 20-year-old Private Elias McNab, from Punnichy, Saskatchewan who is a member of George Gordon First Nation. Three of his cousins also completed the program this year, and his mother and step-father are graduates as well.

Denise Machiskinic, Pte McNab’s mother, graduated from the program in 1998 and still exalts at the growth and development she underwent during the course. When she found out her son had been accepted to Bold Eagle, her pride and enthusiasm swelled.

“I was so excited because I knew what a great experience it was for me. It helped me grow as an individual, so I’m glad he chose to go through with it,” she said.

Tall and physically fit, Pte McNab said that the fitness components of the program were a “breeze.” Though he had no problem rising to the physical challenges, he said that the program really helped him develop leadership skills and self-discipline.

He explained that he learned a variety of ways to delegate and implement plans in a calm, confident way, rather than “snapping” as he used to do to get his point across.

He plans to implement these skills by engaging with youth in his community. Rather than spending most of his time at home, he is eager to become more involved with the youth programs in his area.

Demonstrating to Bold Eagle candidates that there is a wide world of opportunities available to them is an important aspect of the program. For many of the recruits, the six-week course is their first time away from their families and communities for an extended period of time.

Bold Eagle events such as the career fair and powwow show participants the multitude of career, educational and cultural experiences across Canada and around the world available to the youth.

Pte McNab’s stepfather, Eric Machiskinic, experienced this first-hand after graduating from the Bold Eagle course in 1999. In the 19 years since he completed the course, he has been more open to new experiences and talking to people from all types of backgrounds. “It helped me grow, it showed me a different sort of lifestyle,” he said.

Pte McNab encourages any young person who is considering applying to Bold Eagle to do it. Though the course can be mentally and physically demanding, Pte McNab’s advice is, “to persevere and overcome because you’ll be better off for it.

“The whole thing is to bring yourself up and build yourself up,” he said with a determined smile.

Bold Eagle is a Canadian Army Indigenous program, and each year, a six-week course is conducted from early July to late August. Participants are enrolled as members of the Canadian Armed Forces without obligation to remain. Upon completion, each participant may choose to continue in the CAF (as a Regular Force member, a Reserve Force member or as a Canadian Ranger) or be released from service.

During the first week, participants learn traditional Indigenous values and teachings from Indigenous Elders and cultural staff. This develops self-discipline and teamwork, instills pride, and encourages the concept of continuing the Indigenous tradition of military service.

Participants then begin the standard five-week Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification course, during which they learn many skills, including weapons handling, navigation with a map and compass, first aid, military drill, outdoor field craft and survival skills.

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