In September 2016 an Indigenous Elder, Indigenous youth movement groups, and YMCA staff from across York Region came together to build a traditional wiigiiwaam at YMCA Cedar Glen Outdoor Centre. The wiigiiwaam build was led by an Elder from Curve Lake First Nation in partnership with the 4Rs Youth Movement and Motivate Canada’s GEN7 messengers. The goal of this initiative was a step toward honouring local Indigenous history at Cedar Glen, and provided an appropriate setting for experiential education programs on Indigenous culture.
The idea to build a wiigiiwaam started back in the summer of 2015 when a group of Indigenous youth attending Cedar Glen spotted tipis a short hike from the main lodge. The youth were hoping to use the tipis for a traditional ceremony, but upon arriving they noted that the structures were in poor condition. Seeing this as an opportunity for positive action, representatives from 4Rs and GEN7 brought this to the attention of staff at Cedar Glen. Together, they worked to create a wiigiiwaam reconciliation program that involved building a wiigiiwaam and creating a lesson plan for educational trips for students visiting Cedar Glen.
Over the course of the next 12 months, the partners found funding through work on several grant proposals, GEN7 hosted a gathering at Cedar Glen where Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth started developing a lesson plan, the location of the wiigiiwaam was chosen, and construction preparation began by harvesting saplings to be used for the wiigiiwaam’s spine. Finally, on September 28, 2016, the wiigiiwaam was built with the help of over 50 people and led by Gerard, an Elder from Curve Lake First Nation.
With the wiigiiwaam now built, the last few months have been spent finalizing the educational program. Two Cedar Glen Outdoor Educators have been working closely with our partners through each revision. An additional partnership with KAIROS has provided a great opportunity to incorporate the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, an interactive simulation that spans the history of Indigenous communities within Canada.
This spring, several school groups have had the opportunity to take part in these activities and YMCA Cedar Glen looks forward to continuing to bring positive change to today’s social issues by educating the leaders of tomorrow. Learn more about outdoor education programs at YMCA Cedar Glen.