Iced Culture: Eastmain camp offers new rink

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“I’m so happy to see these young people smile and have fun – that’s the motivation that keeps me going,” said Eastmain Culture Coordinator Jamie Moses, who with his team has recently been working long into the night to flood a space they’ve been clearing on the ice just offshore from the Eastmain Cultural Camp.

“I observe the weather very closely and this winter, I noticed how the lake was freezing – like a giant skating rink. The ice was super thick despite the warm weather. There was only a couple of inches of very soft snow – not enough to warm up the ice and melt into it, which is what happens when you have a lot more. That leaves rougher features on the ice.”

Moses asked his colleagues whether it was a good idea to make a rink, and they gave him the green light, so he hired a couple of men to shovel, borrowed a forest-fire water pump, and accepted the offer of a snowblower from Eastmain’s Maintenance Department. Not only was his team clearing snow off the ice, but soon they were flooding it and resurfacing it for a real hockey surface.

Eastmain Cultural Camp flooding the rinkEastmain Cultural camp rinksnowshoeing in Eastmain

“After a couple more floods, we’ll be able to resurface the entire rink,” he said. “Right now it’s almost the size of an ordinary hockey rink.”

The rink is a new offering from the Cultural Camp. The camp itself is on a site selected by Elders to be close enough to the community so that those too old to paddle and portage can still get there easily, but far enough into the bush to feel like the real woods. It has been gradually accumulating buildings for two or three years. The purpose of the Camp is to offer traditional activities tuned to the seasons.

“It belongs to the community so we have activities open to the community,” said Moses. “Anybody who does work for the community can use that space, from Youth Fusion at the school to the Cree School Board, to the Canadian Rangers and Junior Rangers to the First Responders. Whoever has a field activity can use the space.”

Plus, it provides a space for Elders to share culture – they teach traditional work like scraping moose-hide, and younger people like Moses also teach what they’ve learned to the youth.

“We’ll show them how to make a fire, or easy canoeing skills,” said Moses. “For a higher level of skills, we’ll do butchering caribou and moose. For adults we’ll do demonstrations of moose-head cleaning, scraping moose-hide, stuff that reflects their age and knowledge.”

Moses reports that youth in the community are taking a big interest in traditional activities and spend a lot of time out on the land, hunting with their families or venturing out on their own in search of ptarmigan.

Another program the Cultural Camp offers is a weekend snowshoe trek around the lake. It’s important, Moses says, because he’s worried about obesity in the communities and wants to encourage physical activity. Even among men in their 30s, like him, he says those who live a sedentary life seem to be aging quicker than those who are active.

“So I like to organize fun and outdoor physical activities,” Moses explained. “Also, they’re family-oriented activities. That’s what we encourage – if the parents want to snowshoe or learn a traditional activity in the camp, the kids stick around the rink and skate. I’m seeing now a couple of people who are more physically active than before, and I’m really glad to see that among my friends or the people in my community.”

Jamie Moses and daughters on snowshoes

Jamie Moses with twins Jaylene and Joylene

Raised in traditional knowledge of the land by his grandparents and uncle, Moses is an avid hunter whose twin nine-year-olds are just as passionate, joining him on his weekend hunts and helping him butcher his caribou – which he kills a lot of, because the Cultural Camp offers free traditional meals, all at no cost to visitors.

“We’re hoping that more people will show up and share their traditional food. I’m putting a lot of my personal harvest into this camp – I share a lot of meat with friends, family and Elders.”

Eastmain Cultural Camp moose nostrils

Cecil Gilpin cleaning moose nostrils

Eastmain Cultural Camp snowshoeing

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