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Young people from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation learn the steps to skinning a beaver. (Submitted by: Garett Cloud) Young people from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation participated in a cultural camp where they learned first-hand the importance of the Anishinaabe traditions of trapping and hunting in the winter.

The hands-on, two-day camp taught life skills, including how to make and set-up traps in a humane way and track animals.

But the best part, campers said, was learning to skin a beaver.

"I made a bit of a mess. It was a new experience for me and I definitely learned something," said camper Jeremy Hendrick. Johnathan Week’es skins the beaver. (Ashley Albert/CBC News) The campers were taught the lessons through storytelling and sharing thanks to Great Lakes Cultural Camps, a family-owned business from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island.

Kyle French, youth justice advocacy coordinator for Chippewa, planned the camp in response to questions from young people asking to learn more about hunting and trapping.

"Being able to look at a track and say oh look a rabbit or a muskrat. Something as simple as that, if it really came down to it for survival you really need," said French.

He also wants to show Elders and knowledge keepers in Chippewa that young people are out there willingly to learn these teachings. Life skills

As five youth gathered round a recently trapped beaver, Maheengung Shawanda, told them the process of skinning starts by looking at the sacredness of the animal.

The founder and director of Great Lakes Cultural Camps explained learning how to skin a beaver takes time and patience.

"This way of life teaches us about patience. And it helps us to slow things down, and it grounds us," said Shawanda, skills that are useful in everyday life. Campers learned how to make and set up snares. After making their snares, the campers were taught to place sticks around the burrow of an animal. That lures the animal into the spot where the snare is set. The animal walks through the snare and it tightens around its neck. (Submitted by: Garett Cloud ) More camps planned

The theme of hunting and trapping for the camp coincided with the hunting season currently taking place in southwestern Ontario.

Besides skinning the beaver, campers learned how to make and set up snares, placing sticks around the burrow of an animal.

"When I have kids, I want to teach them what I learned. Because not a lot of us have knowledge about our culture and all of that." Tayden Grosbeck said. The youth listen to stories in the teaching lodge. (Submitted by: Garett Cloud) The campers enjoyed the cultural teachings and plan to put them to use in their lives.

"I go out hunting every once in a while with my brother so we could set snares there and build our own traps," said Johnathan Week’es who hopes more youth will come out to the next camp session.

Organizers said there will be other camps planned based on Anishinaabe seasonal teachings, including taping for maple syrup and an Indigenous style games camp.

The hope is that seeing the young people engaged in land-based teachings will encourage the Elders and knowledge keepers to come out and share their knowledge at future camps.

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