The Aki Kikinomakaywin summer STEAM camp concluded on July 22 when the last bus of participants pulled out of Thunder Bay to return to their home communities. Campers and facilitators are happy to share that it was a largely successful week that went off without a hitch.

Elder Sharon Manitowabi and the youth 

Lydia Johnson, Aki Kikinomakaywin Project Lead, shares that highlights of the camp included their visit to the School of Indigenous Learning  for a traditional meal and teachings on the land, the hands-on water activities facilitated by Water First Education & Training Inc , their time spent on Anemki Wajiw sharing songs and teachings, the incorporation of art at camp led by local artists Betty Carpick  and Shelby Gagnon , and the Water Walk Ceremony led by Elders Sheila DeCorte and Sharon Manitowabi. The week was characterized by joy, laughter, and growth, as multiple generations came together to partake in community and confidence building activities.

Monday – Learning about Medicines with Elder Shiela Decorate 

The camp became connected with Canadian Geographic through Biinaagami, an initiative that focuses on our shared responsibility to The Great Lakes, shares Johnson. A photographer and journalist from Canadian Geographic shared a giant map of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Watershed, which showed visually how we are all connected by water. The youth were led through an activity on this map that detailed the language and connections we have to different watersheds and water bodies. Over the course of several days, Johnson reports, youth, Elders, staff, and Canadian Geographic learned together about the importance of water in our lives, as the journalists documented the work that Aki Kikinomakaywin is doing for Indigenous youth and water preservation. Keep an eye out for the project Canadian Geographic is putting together about our shared waterways.

Wednesday – Learning About our Waterways

Camp facilitators Johnson and Haley MacLeod, the program supervisor, hope the youth return home with a new outlook on how Anishinaabe culture and teachings can be used in tandem with Western approaches, and that they carry these connections to the land, the waters, and with each other into the future. They also hope that Aki Kikinomakaywin highlights the need for more Indigenous-led and land-based educational opportunities. Going forward, the desire is to see this camp expand to connect more youth from across the North Shore of Lake Superior, and facilitators can launch programming that will extend into the school year as well.


Tuesday – Working with Willow with Betty Carpick

Not even the rain and thunder at the final feast could’ve dampened the fabulous week shared by campers and leaders alike. Johnson and MacLeod would like to say Chi Miigwetch to everyone who has supported Aki Kikinomakaywin and helped it be such a success. We all look forward to seeing this camp happen again next summer!

By Emily Turner,  photos by Sarah McPherson