From fishing to flying drones, program teaches land skills to Inuit youth

Nuna Buddies is expanding across Kitikmeot region

Participants in the Nuna Buddies program learn skills like kayaking, biking and drone flying out on the land near Cambridge Bay to help connect with their Inuit heritage and with the environment. Pictured from left are: Preston Bouchard, James Ittoshot, Kiana Akpik-Sanford, Faye Neglak, Cheyenne Uvilluk, Francis Oduro, Marissa Uvilluk, Sasha Evetalegak, Marcus Mala, Kiana Ekpakohak, Jonah Ittoshot, Peter Kilaodluk, Zach Crooks, Frank Analok, Jacob Otokiak, BJ Kaiyogana, Daniel Mala, Mitchell Kamoayok, Thomas Kaohina, Carter Crockett (Photo courtesy of Kitikmeot Friendship Society)

By Madalyn Howitt

A program that teaches traditional and technical skills to Inuit youth is expanding across the Kitikmeot region.

From kayaking to fishing to fire starting, the Nuna Buddies program teaches skills over 10 to 14 days out on the land to help youth connect with their heritage and the environment.

It is run by the Kitikmeot Friendship Society.

“We are also fostering discussions around mental health topics like addiction, smoking, relationships, hygiene, sexual [health] and topics that can help to deal with the everyday life that young people are involved in,” said program director Francis Oduro.

Nuna Buddies youth program participant Frank Analok, left, learns how to fly a camera drone with Kofi Ampofo, centre, and Marissa Uviluk just outside of Cambridge Bay on a 14-day excursion last month. (Photo courtesy of Kitikmeot Friendship Society)

The program is in its third year, and for the first time is offering youth camps not just in Cambridge Bay, but in all five Kitikmeot communities.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

Twenty-five participants from Cambridge Bay returned from a 14-day excursion on July 5, and the program staff headed to Gjoa Haven on July 7 for the first rollout of the program there.

Kayson Kuliktana, 13, said the experience was “amazing.” His favourite activities were kayaking and biking.

Marcus Mala, 11, came back having learned how to kayak, go ice fishing and how to make a fire.

Not only is the program visiting new regions this year, it’s added new activities to its roster.

When the youth aren’t riding bikes or learning to catch fish, they’ll be learning how to fly drones and film the environment.

“Last year, we brought our camera and other things that we use out on the land and we realized that they were very interested in trying to use the camera, or even grab our phones to take pictures of themselves and things like that,” Oduro explained.

Invitation for Applications – Deputy Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

Kiana Ekpakohak, left, and Kiana Akpik-Sanford hold up the fish they caught during the Nuna Buddies program’s 14-day outing on the land outside of Cambridge Bay late last month. (Photo courtesy of Kitikmeot Friendship Society)

When staff realized the youths had an interest in learning more technical skills, the Kitikmeot Friendship Society invested in new cameras and drones and taught the participants how to use them.

“It’s been very amazing, the [amount] of talent that you could discover from these young people after half an hour of introduction on how to fly the drone,” Oduro said.

Participants learned how to edit the photos and videos they took with the drone, and the program hopes to set up a YouTube page to showcase the work of the young filmmakers.

Faye Neglak, 15, participated in the program this year for the second time. Flying the drone was a new and challenging experience for her but one she says she will definitely try again when she participates again next year.

“I actually didn’t know how to canoe, and some of the kids even taught me,” laughed Kiana Akpik-Sanford, 17, who joined Nuna Buddies for the first time this year as a youth worker.

She said youth programs like these are important because they help provide a safe space and sense of community for young people.

“There’s a lot of kids here who don’t have safe homes and the land just brings most of us to peace,” she said.

“Everybody feels at peace out there because it’s quiet, and you don’t have to worry about anything other than yourself while you’re out there.”

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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pisitiik! on

    Programs like these are great because nothing is more important than building up our young people to be the happiest and most self-sufficient people they can be!
    I am proud of everyone who helps young people learn and do more! I am proud of everyone who loves to learn, too!

  2. Posted by Eskimos Fan on

    Inuit once chased and rumble with polar bears with a bone knife.♥️


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