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Bush camp opens for Fort Smith students

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Smith (Nov 01/04) - High school students in Fort Smith can now learn traditional skills in an ideal setting.

That's because Paul William Kaeser high school has built a bush camp on Sawmill Island, about seven kilometres down the Slave River from Fort Smith.

Cindy Bye, cultural coordinator at PWK, describes the camp as a place where students can be one with nature.

"There are opportunities for learning out there," she says. "There's no way we'd be able to bring that to them in the classroom."

The lessons include traditional skills taught by Fort Smith elders, respect for the land and identification of plants and animals.

The students can also learn how to erect a teepee.

"Each class has a chance to put it up," Bye said, explaining students learn the symbolism of each teepee pole.

Construction of the camp, which has three four-bunk cabins, was begun in June by school staff and members of the South Slave Divisional Education Council.

The first group of students went to the camp on Oct. 4.

Bye said the students enjoyed the experience. "We've had great, great feedback."

Micah Emerson, 14, said spending time at the camp was hard work, noting students helped build stairs and cut wood as well as erecting the teepee. "It was fun."

The Grade 8 student believes it is good for students to take part in building things at the camp.

"It's better to make something yourself than to go there and something is already set up."

Grade 8 student Shadow Trudeau, 13, agreed the camp is a good idea and said she enjoyed all the activities and learning.

Bye says the camp will be further developed over the coming years, noting a sweat lodge may be added.