Nunavik outdoor adventure group expands focus during pandemic

Jeunes Karibus offering new programs for youth in Nunavik

Participants in and coordinators of Ikaartuit, a program in the Nunavik outdoor education organization Jeunes Karibus, work on a cabin construction project that teaches carpentry skills south of Kuujjuaq in August 2021. Jeunes Karibus is a Nunavik outdoor education organization that encourages youth to work on personal and social skills while developing a healthy lifestyle. (Photo courtesy of Hugo Dufresne)

By Madalyn Howitt

When Joshua Kettler, 20, was a 14-year-old high school student in Umiujaq, Que., he worked hard to keep his grades up.

Doing well in school was important to him, he said, but not just so that he could bring home a good report card.

As a participant in the Jeunes Karibus outdoor adventure organization, getting good grades meant Kettler could go on weekend trips and expeditions in the Nunavik wilderness.

“That was a big motivation for me,” he said.

For Inuit youth in Nunavik wanting to learn more about living on the land, joining Jeunes Karibus has been a unique opportunity to experience life in the great outdoors since it was founded from a pilot project in 2014.

In the wake of the pandemic, however, some innovations have helped Jeunes Karibus grow into more than just an outdoor activity program for teens.

Hugo Dufresne is the general manager of Jeunes Karibus, having recently taken over from long-time manager and founder Valérie Raymond, who still leads the board of directors.

“We were, at the beginning, an expedition program, and now we’re an outdoor intervention program,” Dufresne said of the organization’s expanded focus.

In 2014, Jeunes Karibus ran a program called Nurrait, which helped students develop health, personal and social skills through skiing, kayaking and camping, and connected youth with community elders who shared their knowledge of the land.

Then, it added Tuttuit, a professional development program, which allowed students who aged out of Nurrait to continue learning through internship and employment opportunities as assistant team leaders for expeditions.

Since 2020, however, Jeunes Karibus has added two more programs to reach more youth in Nunavik, specifically targeting emotional well-being and issues of isolation during the pandemic.

The new Ikaartuit program focuses on self-awareness by helping participants identify their strengths and understand their emotions through self-regulation and personal goal setting.

“It’s designed for youth who are not attending school or with more, we say, psychosocial vulnerabilities, with a bit less stability in their life,” Dufresne said.

The Ikaartuit program enlists the help of a professional social worker to work with youth experiencing personal challenges, and offers intensive programming like a cabin construction project that allows participants to develop carpentry skills they can apply in their professional life, Dufresne said.

“Basically there will be interventions with the youth to the outdoors,” he said.

“They’re going to live a challenge outdoors, and afterwards they are going to reflect about it and grow from the challenges they’ve been through during the programming.”

Yet pandemic restrictions over the past two years forced some adjustments to how the outdoor Nurrait, Tuttuit and Ikaartuit programs are run, Dufresne said. Just as participants have to learn new skills to thrive in the outdoors, Jeunes Karibus organizers had to find new ways to deliver their programming.

Instead of all participants gathering for a final expedition, for example, program coordinators staged community-specific expeditions to keep bubbles small.

Those efforts meant Jeunes Karibus was able to continue its programming in all 14 northern communities it operates in, he said.

It also meant organizers could launch an online program, offering 30 workshop activities that can be done individually, indoors and outdoors.

Self-knowledge, leadership and healthy lifestyle skills like cooking and maintaining good sleep routines are all facets of Jeunes Karibus’s more holistic approach to youth outdoor education, Dufresne said.

It’s an approach that Kettler is happy to see the organization take on. He sees himself as a good representation of what the program and its specialized activities can do for participants.

Now an adult and the father of two young children, Kettler is still involved with Jeunes Karibus. Having completed the Nurrait and Tuttuit programs, he now sits on the board of directors.

“I would like youth to be more involved and to experience the program as much as possible,” he said.

“It’s a very good program for the youth, since most of them don’t get a chance to go out on the land, and I find that the program does a lot of stuff to keep our culture strong.”

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Housing shortages and not showing up for work on

    What’s does housing shortages and not showing up for work have In common? Maybe more than you think. When you’re late for work, or don’t show up for work, you have less pay for one thing. Less pay can drastically affect your ability to generate housing money for rent and mortgages, thereby decreasing the economic stabilization of building more housing to fit the population growth. It ties in very negatively when people who have a job and don’t do their job from not showing up to do it. We’re not talking about unemployment here, we’re talking about negligence with employment. Unemployment is very concerning in and off itself for another discussion. But not showing up for work is the worse of the worse in an economic dependent society. Those kids in these programs are for one thing, being further lead away from being responsible for having vital contributions to society. Building cabins out on the land is great, and has much benefit for recreational time, once you leave your house in town to go there. Learning to build cabins, without knowing the importance of living in a much needed house is concerning in the way our society works today. Cabins are today only for leisure, and not for primary living and contributing to and being part of the community. Building cabins is not part of Inuit culture per say, and even if it was part of the culture, it would have been very negligent for it not to be taught to kids as they grew up. I don’t see any connection here between culture and theses kids being pictured hanging on the uprights 2x4s of out of territorial teachings and fund spending programs. Get them to contribute to the building of houses in the communities, not putting up waste structures on the caribou paths. These programs are a waste of money, gotten from the piece of pie , that could provide more vital aspects of improvement to Nunavik life. These same kids will go on to not show up for work, in a few years, with great dreams of having built a cabin that they’re never sleep in or visit again. And the dreams will be from a bed in a very crowded house in a Nunavik town. Stop this ridiculous waste generating from both the southerners need for money and the northerners need to waste funds that we need for real life. Help these kids by showing them real responsibilities by contributing to community life.

    • Posted by exactly on

      This is why Organisations like KRG are hiring carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. from the south.
      the work has to be done and local inuit workers either do not have the education to get trained or are unmotivated to show up for 5 days a week.
      I wonder how many inuit workers are employed by makivik to help construct houses? You see – its all smoke and mirrors my friends.

      These pop up “Miracle Worker” projects are very short lived and produce no long term benefits. But i guess it gives a warm and fuzzy feeling so it must be OK.

  2. Posted by When good things happen on

    Yes, you’ll get the supporters of all that’s negative happening in a good cover. Programs like this do have everyone fouled because it appears positive, and takes advantage of the struggle that kids are having in society. This becomes a playful event only with the vultures cashing in. There’s no watchdog, or otherwise no challenging the positive outcomes of the manipulation taking place. This is no better than what we are seeing with children being taken away with DYP, and put into outside culture, no regard to the mother culture. It’s the same thing , but dressed up to look good. Or I’ll ask this question if you disagree: where are the Inuit adults in all this? Were they not there for the kids in the grown up years? Are they not there today in this program for the kids? Who’s responsible for leading kids into the mess they are in anyway? And finally, if people are satisfied with this program, how are they not satisfied with the DYP situation of today? It’s the same ideal, let the outside intervention look after what we are not looking after ourselves. I may even shut up about this is anyone can prove that this program is not about manipulation of Inuit culture.

  3. Posted by Been spying on that for awhile on

    There are cabins around Nunavik fit for king, his women and his men. Cabins today, with except a few, are built, hardly used, never slept in. There’s garbage everywhere. Old vehicles , junk, rotting. The same cabins are same size as houses in communities. The same people with theses cabins can’t afford rent on their house. Or they crammed into housing with 20 other people, and the cabin just a few miles out the road , or just over there is emptied. That’s the kind of people that the programs are turning out. Builders of cabins, crammers of houses. And then there’s talk about living on and going back to the great land. People never in the history of Inuit culture has ever had it so good to live off the land, but they can’t. So the kids are being used, rather then educated to build the future. Unless off coarse, they can learn to walk the talk , and live and be healthy from the living out there in a cabin. These programs of healing, the healing , rather then healing for real.

  4. Posted by False excitement on

    People get so excited about programs that waste money. They can’t seem to get it that it’s a waste. Funds used. Just consider the mayor of kuujjuaq is now campaigning for 30 million dollars for some type of community recreation Center among the already million dollars arena sitting on top of a hill in kuujjuaq. That are s is the admiration of people that have a healthy life without ever getting such a facility. The belief that you can not only abuse kids as they grow but you can continue to abuse a go fund me funds to have more and more , not contributing to making the abuses go away. It’s just one after the other abuse. Why would anyone give money to the mayor’s pleading to build another big multi million dollar waste building , and other communities, in this country are working hard with far less build structures and turning out good citizens, with far less money and waste. Go put your funds to good use.


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