Looking back: Soldiers prepare for Eagle’s Nest Aboriginal youth adventure camp

Article / August 5, 2016 / Project number: 16-0132

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Ottawa, Ontario — In preparation for leading this year’s Eagle’s Nest, a Canadian Army-run leadership camp for Aboriginal youth in July, 70 soldiers from 1st Battalion, Royale 22e Régiment (1 R22eR)  attended a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Aboriginal cultural awareness course in Valcartier, Quebec.

The course began with a smudging ceremony, which is the ritualistic burning of the four sacred medicines: tobacco, sage, cedar and sweetgrass. “It was like bathing yourself in smoke from burning cedar needles,” said Captain Alex Trousdale, who is the acting Officer in Command of the Eagle’s Nest Company at 1 R22eR, and will be second in command during the actual camp. “Then we went into the classroom and learned 500 years of history. The timelines of the Aboriginal experience are so distant. We are accustomed to thinking very short term, forgetting the huge backstory.”

Throughout the year, the CAF offers a dedicated Aboriginal awareness course to troops who wish to learn about Aboriginal cultures and traditions. The course is designed to provide  CAF members with a better understanding of the community with which they will be interacting, allowing them to engage its members with due respect, sensitivity and authenticity. The course was an important part of training for the soldiers as they prepared to lead this year’s camp in mid-July.

Eagle’s Nest is an annual five-day camp conducted each year in a different Aboriginal community in Canada. This year’s Eagle’s Nest camp took place at the First Nations community of Atikamekw of Manawan, a fairly remote community of about 2,000 residents, approximately 250 km north of Montreal, from July 10 to 16, 2016. The soldiers took part in the training in the month of May.

Learning is the goal of Eagle’s Nest leadership camps, which introduce selected participating Aboriginal youth to life skills in the field. Some of the skills they learn learn include fitness, fieldcraft (survival training and navigation) and map-reading. The Aboriginal cultural training was provided by local community elders and teachers.

In its fourth year, Eagle’s Nest has also been held at Manitoulin Island, Ontario (2013); Muskeg Lake, Saskatchewan (2014); and Elsipogtog, New Brunswick (2015).

By Anne Duggan, Army Public Affairs

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