Making summer memories
Camping kids in the NWT

Emma Levez
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jul 06/98) - Now that school's out and summer's here the annual problem of how to keep the kids busy surfaces.

Across the territories, communities are offering healthy and safe summer activities for children. An array of planned projects, from hiking and picnicking to hunting and storytelling, are available.

Some communities offer day camps at which children can play sports, do crafts and socialize with other people their age.

Shawna Nerysoo is the day-camp programmer at the recreation centre in Fort McPherson.

"Our program runs Monday through Friday, nine o'clock to five," she says. "For the months of July and August, kids can come here to enjoy playground games, complex activities, scavenger hunts, face painting and picnics. We also have all day outings -- hiking and biking -- and some overnight camping at the local campground."

This is the first year for the day camp in Fort McPherson, and so far 11 children have signed up.

"We are happy with the turnout so far," says Nerysoo, "And more are coming every day."

In Inuvik, the youth leadership program has placed councillors at five of the playgrounds in town for the duration of the summer. Three- to five-year-olds are welcome to drop in and enjoy organized games for the day.

Children six to 12 years old can enrol in one of six week-long sessions. "Each week there is a different theme; so far the sports camp is the most popular," says Inuvik recreation co-ordinator Theresa Ross. "Science Week is next, and Splash Week is always popular because kids like swimming."

Another program offered in Inuvik focuses on teenagers from 13 to 17 years of age. For 10 days a small group stays at a base camp outside of Inuvik.

"They learn traditional skills and leadership, including group co-operation, self-reliance and teamwork," Ross says.

"This camp also involves elders: storytelling, making bannock and string games. The kids are exposed to much local culture. They talk about history and learn interpretive skills."

The programs are limited in the number of participants they can accommodate. Says Ross, "We're filling up quickly, but there are still some spots available. We try not to turn any kid away, but we don't want to jeopardize the quality of the programs."

In Fort Simpson, the Brighter Futures Program supports the Dechinta traditional summer camp for youth.

Every week during the summer, six adults will be taking 10 children between the ages of seven and 14 out on the land in the North Nahanni area.

"They do a lot of hunting, fishing, living off the land," says co-ordinator Sonny Lenoir. "The kids really have to pull their weight around the camp. The four things that we focus on are self-esteem, responsibility, respect and safety."

The fee for a week at Dechinta is only $50 -- and that money goes towards bug jackets, a much-needed piece of clothing for all participants. The camp has been running for more than 20 summers now, and it is still very popular.

"The interest in learning traditional ways is very high," Lenoir says.

In Hay River, children from all over the territories congregate at the Friendship Centre. It is from there that they leave for eight to 10 days of camping at a spot near Fort Providence.

"We take them out to the camp where they learn hunting, boat safety, firearm safety, how to set snares and nets, how to put up tents -- all kinds of survival skills," says Ramona Maurice.

Most people have fond recollections of camps attended during childhood. Maurice, who has been a camp counsellor for three summers, remembers.

"One time I was canoeing with a group of kids. We were close to the shore -- and we tipped over! The kids were all screaming. They thought they were going to drown, until I yelled at them and they realized that they couldstand up!"