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Youth engaged in Opasquia Trails installation

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Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) have partnered together with Opasquia Trails for their “Trails Week” program. OYEP is a national network of land-based education, training and work opportunities for high school aged Indigenous youth. OYEP is a six-week work experience providing training and education in a supportive space that replicates various work environments.
The program takes an inclusive approach to Indigenous education, recruitment, retention and provides a safe and predictable learning environment that can be tailored to meet the needs of local communities and partners. OYEP collaborates with local Indigenous communities and consults with Elders to ensure youth feel culturally and spiritually supported in the workplace.
Peter Bird, team leader with OYEP stated “We have camps all over the country and get Indigenous students from all over Manitoba. We bring them to the camp at Egg Lake, where Opaskwayak Cree Nation has been kind enough to host us. We train the camp participants in various bush work. This week were are engaged in “Trails Week”, pointing out “today they are building a picnic table and other kids are out in the bush doing trail clearing.” In regards to the types of training OYEP participants receive over their six-week course, “we give them brush saw training, trail building, using firefighting equipment, they get their First Aid, Bear Awareness, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), basic chainsaw training, and they also get two high school (CO-OP) credits”. Bird added the program is “designed around getting them engaged in work but also at same time engaged in their culture”. He noted that a flat tire on one of the work vehicles was a perfect time to gather everyone around and show them how to change it.

In regards to connections in the community “Floyd North took them out on a medicine walk and showed them some local plants and Fred Stevens did something similar with them as well, and we are looking into whatever we can. The age limit isn’t super strict but generally the age range is 15-19. The program is six weeks long and the program ends this year around August 20th. We had many applicants and we lost a few kids but we currently have 18 students, down from 29 since some kids had to go home early. They are paid for their participation 40 hours a week.”
Board member Alan McLauchlan, talked about the OYEP members contribution to Opasquia Trails. “This week is called Trails Week, and how better to do this, than build a trail. Half of the group is in the bush right now brushing out trails, Shawn Sexsmith is our leader out there and he is helping them do clearing with bush axes, saws, and all sorts of tools to clear the trail ten feet wide. This week they will go about 1.4 kms of trail, which is a huge amount. If we had to pay someone to come in there then that would set us back. So we are very happy about that, plus it is giving them skills in practice in what they have learned already. They were out on two medicine walks and on both walks they talked about bee stings. If you get a bee sting, take some plantain (aka white man’s foot), chew it up and put in on the sting. Well guess what happened, they were out in the bush, someone got a bee sting they put the plantain on it and they knew exactly what it was, knew how to use it, and they did use it.”
McLauchlan continued, “right now we have them building a picnic table and they have built two docks so far as well and we hope to have 15 done by the time the participants are done. We are very excited by their labour and they are learning a bunch of new skills and I’m learning as they are refreshing a bunch of my skills. So really it is a win-win situation.”