Standing Bear Stories

Standing Bear Summer Student Inspiring Her Peers to Reach Higher

Author: Wendy-Ann Clarke

At just 16-years-old, Standing Bear Summer Student Racheal Cameron has always seen herself as a leader.

Hailing from the Dalles First Nation in the Kenora District, Cameron was the 2018 Standing Bear program’s youngest summer student — something she says she used to her advantage by being able to reach young people at their level.

 “I think because I’m a youth, I connected better with them than an adult would because I understood them,” said Cameron. “I think it worked to our advantage and we got out some of the shyer kids because I was able to go make friends with them.”

Helping to facilitate successful camps in communities across the province, including Kenora and Rama, the 2017 North American Indigenous Games Team Ontario badminton alumni says she wants other Indigenous youth to be able to share in the opportunities that have been afforded to her.

“With my involvement working with these youth I kind of put myself in their shoes and I think, ‘How can I bring what I have to them?’” said Cameron. “When I go to places I’ll recognize youth that are really good at sport and then I want to connect them with people that can take them to the next level instead of having their skills stay on the reserve.”

Although still a high school student, Cameron says she feels a strong sense of responsibility to give back because she recognizes the impact being involved in a program like Standing Bear can have on the future of Indigenous youth across the province.  

“It’s kind of important to me because I see a lot of kids my age who are dropping out and having kids,” said Cameron. “A lot of people tend to think of First Nations in a negative light and I think that with this work people are starting to think of First Nations differently.”

“I’m trying to get kids to beat the stereotypes so that they’ll go out and do some of the things that I’m doing. Just getting involved and trying to organize things in their communities to get other kids out.”

Cameron says the Standing Bear program is not only helping her to grow and develop as a leader and changing and affecting the lives of many of her peers but also helping to transform perceptions of Indigenous youth.

“I think the program is helping us grow,” said Cameron. “It’s helping people who don’t have lots of understanding of what’s happening on First Nations realize we’re equal and we’re here too and that we’re doing all the same things they can do. Even though we’re on reserve we can still do it. We have the same skill sets.” 

Standing Bear is a culturally grounded program developed by the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario to strengthen individual and community wellness by empowering Indigenous youth in making positive change.



Standing Bear Youth Leader Giving Back Through Police Services

Author: Wendy-Ann Clarke

Standing Bear Student Leader Tanner Meekis looks forward to giving back to his community as a police officer one day.

The 18-year-old who is Oji-Cre from Sandy Lake First Nation grew up in Kenora, Ontario and is currently enrolled in the Police Foundations Course at Centennial College in Toronto.

Living off-reservation for most of his life, Meekis says he didn’t learn much about his Indigenous culture. Throughout his summer with Standing Bear, he was able to travel to Indigenous communities across Ontario and has gained new understanding of what it means to have Indigenous heritage.  

I learned a lot about my Indigenous culture and traditions particularly through the elder’s teachings,” said Meekis. “Now I’m hoping to learn even more about my culture so I can teach my family and keep our traditions alive.”

With plans to enter the tertiary police force in the Kenora Indigenous community, Meekis says the skills and teachings he’s learning with Standing Bear have equipped him to better serve in the future.

“I’ve seen some issues going on in my community including homeless with Indigenous people,” Meekis said. “Some of them may even be residential school survivors. That’s why I want to give back because you never know how someone ended up where they are.”

Meekis feels it is important for every youth to learn about culture through programs like Standing Bear to help to foster a sense of identity and purpose.

Standing Bear is a culturally grounded program developed by the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario to strengthen individual and community wellness by empowering Indigenous youth in making positive change.


Building Confidence Through Self-love

Author: Wendy-Ann Clarke
Youth looking for a confidence boost at the Standing Bear Youth Leadership Camp in London, Ontario were in for a treat with Turtle Concepts featuring the upbeat Dave Jones’ and his team.
With their witty and high energy presentation, they shared stories of their journey to positivity in the face of obstacles with humour, relatability and the kind of honesty that only comes with experience. Youth were left with smiles from ear to ear and an empowering message of self-worth that is sure to stay with them for years to come.
“Knowing that I come from the land, knowing my language, going to my ceremonies, going to church, all this stuff is what helped me to build confidence,” Jones said. “It’s mostly about your perspective and that comes from your heart. If you use your brain to make your heart better, it’s crazy what can happen.”
The Turtle Concepts team taught confidence not as something you are born with but as something you often have to train yourself to walk in every day. Regardless of where you come from, what you look like and what you have gone through, you are worthy to stand tall and stand strong.
“You know why people tell you to put your head up,” asked Jones. “It’s because when you put your head down it looks like you don’t believe in yourself. Maybe there are times where you don’t but tell yourself good stuff. Go to the mirror and say, ‘You can do it’, ‘You’re amazing’, ‘You’ve got a great smile’, ‘Your handsome’. It’s called self-love and it’s not wrong.”
As the founder of Turtle Concepts, Jones has traveled the globe motivating, inspiring and building confidence in individuals through his, creative and interactive sessions, workshops, speeches, and retreats. His honest delivery that melds his strong traditional and cultural Indigenous roots with a contemporary message resonated with Standing Bear’s Young Leaders. 
“He was very funny and really positive,” beamed a 14-year-old participant. “He taught us that confidence comes when you get used to things and get comfortable with yourself. That’s a message I really related to.”
Standing Bear is a culturally grounded program developed by the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario to strengthen individual and community wellness by empowering Indigenous youth in making positive change.



Building Your Way Up to Confidence

Author: Wendy-Ann Clarke

Youth at the Standing Bear Leadership Camp held at Western University had the opportunity to put their courage to the test while climbing the ropes at The Factory Indoor Adventure Park in London, Ontario.

After a week of growing and learning through an assortment of activities and dynamic guest speakers, the youth had the chance to reach higher heights in determination and tenacity while suspended meters in the air.

“I climbed all the way to the top of the ropes course,” said Natasha, a youth participant of Metis and Ojibwe descent. “I found more confidence by just having fun, meeting people and focusing on the positive.”

At The Factory, participants were given helmets, harnesses and a crash course on how to make their way through the obstacle course.

With the support of the Standing Bear leadership staff, youth reported feeling a great sense of accomplishment after the excursion.

Kane, a participant from Chippewa and Thames says he learned a lot about ways to stay motivated and express himself more through his time at Camp. He described his experience at The Factory as a “highlight” in a week filled with fun and empowering activities.

“I only got to the first level but I left feeling a lot more confident,” he said. “Just the adrenaline of trying made me feel like I could do anything.”




We Came in as Outsiders and Left as Friends

Author: Wendy-Ann Clarke

Sitting around a campfire in Fort Albany, a local woman preparing a goose stew told fabled stories of legends from their First Nation community. The Standing Bear youth that surrounded her hung on her every word.

Situated deep in northern Ontario, Fort Albany was new and unchartered territory for the program in early July. Through the Camp, youth from the community engaged in various sport and recreation activities, leadership programming, and local Indigenous teachings that crossed demographic lines, nurtured local youth and helped to bring residents together.

While the team may have entered the community as outsiders, they left as friends.

“You could see the difference in the kids and the sense of comfort and humour that came out from them throughout the week,” said Standing Bear Youth Leadership Coordinator Hillary McGregor. “It was great to see that our program resonated to that level.”

Watermelon also became a unique way to reach out to youth in the area. Freshly cut slices of the fruit were a real treat in the community where just one watermelon can run up to $50.

“We brought in three over the course of the week and it was really important for participation at that camp,” said McGregor. “Seeing the impact of bringing a watermelon to the Standing Bear community feast was definitely eye-opening, especially going into our other Northern Camp in Fort Hope later this summer. The understanding that we’re gaining through these Camps will be beneficial for the growth of the program for years to come.”


Cooking up Something Good for the Soul

Author: Wendy-Ann Clarke 

Youth at the Standing Bear Leadership Camp in Fort Albany had no problem getting their hands dirty cooking up a delicious batch of fry bread with Standing Bear staff Peshaunquet Shognosh.

For Shognosh who is Anishinaabe First Nation from Walpole Island, the task runs deeper than mixing ingredients. He was passing down a recipe that has been passed down in his family for generations.

“It comes from The Trail of Tears which was a mass eviction of Indigenous people from the east coast of the United States in the 1800’s,” says Shognosh. “They were given only the worst ingredients to make the food on the journey.

“With ingenuity, the women took what they were given and made something tasty to feed their families. It was a dark moment in our history but out of it has come something special.”

The bread is made with flour, salt, baking powder and one other special ingredient which Shognosh revealed to the youth in his teaching.

“There’s this old adage that the secret ingredient is love and I think that it really is,” says Shognosh.

“I’ve learned that feelings and emotions can translate into what you’re doing so if you’re feeling love it goes directly into the food.”