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Connecting with Culture Builds Confidence: Samantha's Story

Samantha's Story - Photo - Website.jpg

Eleven-year-old Samantha* is from a community in northern Ontario and enjoys playing hockey, ATVing, and biking with friends. She also expresses deep pride in practicing her Ojibway way of life, which she has had the opportunity to learn more about at the PLAY program.

An Ojibway community in Greater Sudbury, her community “is this little tiny reserve,” Samantha says. The population is very small – about 80 people, 24 of whom are children and youth.

“When I was Samantha’s age, some of the parents were made to feel ashamed and we couldn’t really practice some things,” says Lori Corbiere, Cultural Coordinator, and Samantha’s mother. “Now that we’re older and everything is so open, we’re breaking down barriers.”

Samantha also explains the varying degrees of opportunities youth have to practice their culture, depending on whether they live on- or off-reserve. “We do all these things [at program], where you probably won’t really get them as much where all my friends live.” Samantha is talking about things like the culture camp that Community Mentor Theo Sutherland organized in February 2019, at which 6 youth participated in teepee teachings, goose hunting and preparation, snowshoeing and animal tracking with Chop Waindubence, a cultural practitioner.

“When we come to the program, it’s better because we’re not on our electronics [and] we all get to come play and be outside,” Samantha says.

“When the kids are at program, they get to interact with one another in a safe environment, just to have fun together,” adds Theo.

“On Wednesdays we have drumming,” Samantha shares more about the PLAY program in her community. “We all made our own hand drums with deer hide and cedar trees. We know quite a bit of songs. My favourite ones are Scooby Doo and the Water Song.”

Theo has seen how much the youth thrive on cultural activities such as drumming. “They’re always eager to do something else. They love the outdoors and not being all wound up inside the gazebo, they want to be free!”

More than a recreation program, youth like Samantha are building their confidence and leadership skills through PLAY. “When we drum, there’s sometimes a lead singer, which I like to take on. It usually goes more than once, so we all take turns being the leader throughout the song,” Samantha explains. “It gives us confidence in drumming – but not only that – sometimes I have presentations at school, so it builds my confidence in speaking in front of people,” she shares. “I sing in front of powwows which is up to a hundred people there, and I’m fine with doing that because of drumming here.”

“She has strong grassroots,” Lori says about her daughter’s connection to her culture and sense of leadership. And Samantha’s involvement in activities like drumming at the PLAY program are helping those roots grow even stronger. “She’s learning to find herself as a person,” her mother says.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the child