Boys on the Land program teaches youths survival skills

Cambridge Bay group completes weeklong wilderness trip with Ilitaqsiniq

The Boys on the Land program from Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council teaches youths in Cambridge Bay basic survival skills and Inuit traditional knowledge on weeklong retreats out on the land. From top left: William Komak, Braden Allukpik, program co-ordinator A.J. Aknavigak, Brett Evetalegak and Mackie Evaglok. Bottom: Instructors Bobby Klengenberg, Randy Klengenberg. (Photo courtesy of A.J. Aknavigak).

By Madalyn Howitt

A cultural program in Cambridge Bay is helping young people learn skills they need to survive out on the land.

The Boys on the Land program, run by the Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council, sends youth from the community out on a weeklong trip on the tundra accompanied by instructors and mentors.

From Feb. 13 to 17, four youth from the community ages 15 to 18 along with two instructors set off on the mainland 48 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay.

“It was a combination of basic survival skills, like how to properly prepare for a day trip when you’re going out hunting, learning how to use basic camping gear such as Coleman stoves, some satellite communication devices, and basic tips and knowledge on how you can thrive and survive on the land,” said A.J. Aknavigak, program co-ordinator for Ilitaqsiniq.

The program, funded in part by the Social Justice Fund through the Government of Nunavut, got its start after some senior members of the organization shared their concerns that young people were not engaging in traditional Inuit practices like hunting and were losing their connection to cultural heritage, he said.

“We wanted to create a program where we can actually show these boys that it is possible to like to thrive in something that takes them away from their phones and just connects them with the land and its resources,” Aknavigak said. “The goal is to help youth increase their confidence level out on the land.”

He added, “If they did want to, let’s say, take a day trip fishing, we feel like we’ve given them the skills and the knowledge to do so. We hope that these programs give them the confidence to try and achieve that and partake in it more.”

Feedback from youths so far has been positive, he said, with the most recent participants saying they were taken aback by how cold it feels when they’re away from town and out on the tundra.

Aknavigak co-ordinated a similar program last April where participants got to harvest fish.

He has proposed organizing additional programs so participants experience life on the land during all the seasons.

“The weather plays such a big part when we run our programs,” he said.

Other programs, like traditional tool-making, excursions for young girls and women and programs aimed at elders to address their access to an adequate food supply, are also being worked on.

Cambridge Bay suffered a blow last year when its youth centre burned down.

Having no space in the community where youths can connect has possibly led to increased interest in the Boys on the Land programming, Aknavigak said.

“I definitely think that there is a correlation with that … the community as a whole is starting to notice our presence and I think that has a part to do with the interest in the programs that we’re offering,” he said.


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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Charlotte Borg on

    Wonderful story! My dream is for every community to have its own boys’ land program for every age of child and it’s own girls on the land program also for every age of girl.

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