Adventures Out to Saugeen First Nation
Long time friend of FESA and sitting member of the Pathways Project, Ningwakwe George, Member of the National Advisory Council for our Pathways Project, had extended FESA an invitation to come visit Saugeen First Nation. Well, we finally took Ningwakwe up on the offer and from April 24th—27th, we packed our suitcases and flew out of YYC and headed to YYZ, head North West on Highway 10 in Ontario and visited Saugeen First Nation. Saugeen is situated on Lake Huron, about 3 hours out from Greater Toronto -- maybe a little longer if you take the same road as we did and double backed a couple of times and stopped for coffee and a meal.
The five of us, three representatives from the Further Education Society of Alberta and two from the Coady Institute, had a series of interviews set up with community members, youth, and council members—both current and former. We were interviewing Saugeen community to see what leadership looks like to them, and what can and needs to be done to set up the future leaders for success.
We conducted these interviews at the Band Office, and for most of the interviews we were talking in a big group, asking the questions we had prepared, but also following where the conversation led. There were many surprises during our scheduled interview times, with people popping in, staying for longer than scheduled, and some young voices having more to say than expected. At one time, we had some many interviews taking place at once, we had to splinter off into 3 groups.
We went to explore what leadership means and leadership programs for Indigenous Youth. Some of the questions we brought to the interviews were "What is your understanding of governance as it relates to Saugeen," "In 30 years, what do you hope your community will be like," and "What is the role of Elders/knowledge keepers/youth in governance?"
Everyone's valuable insight will help guide the Pathways project and help build a template for Youth Leadership Programs and creating a community asset maps (community identified strengths and people in the community who can pass on important knowledge, teachings and could be youth mentors.)
Another highlight was touring the community garden. Our guide, Tina Root, kindly met with us in the morning to show us around the garden and teach us about the organic methods being employed to ward off animals and bugs who would like to get their paws on some treats. One of the methods mentioned was planting garlic around the parameter to ward off any bugs who don't like garlic.
Later that same day, Tina dropped by with a gift for all of us, some of the garden's garlic and some wild rice. She stayed for a little while and contributed to the interview! That was very kind of her.
To thank everyone who participated and to celebrate their insight, we met up later, after the interviews were completed we all headed to the Elk & Finch in Southampton, which is a quaint café & restaurant situated in an old house. They roast their own coffee in house and make their own biscotti.
And after all that excitement, the Coady and FESA team climbed into the van and headed back to Brampton to get ready for their flights in the morning. On the way back there were a few more miss turns, travels down keep roads that looked like something out of the Blair Witch Project, and stops for the washroom.
All said, it was certainly an eventful five days. When we make it back to Saugeen it won't be soon enough as it is a lovely community with many caring individuals. It was a pleasure to meet everyone, and we are very grateful for everyone who took time out of their day to work with us.