by Kinnukana, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Miyowatisiwin Camp Inspire took place from June 2-4, 2023, at the Edmonton Fire Rescue Services’ Poundmaker Firefighter Training Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. This free inaugural, three-day interactive camp promotes firefighting as a viable and rewarding career for Indigenous Peoples of all backgrounds and genders.
The camp is a partnership between the City of Edmonton and Enoch Cree Nation. Enoch Cree Nation gifted the City of Edmonton with the camp’s Cree name, Miyowatisiwin Camp Inspire. Miyowatisiwin means “being of good character” and embodies the traditional values of Indigenous Peoples, which are based on respect, love, humility, courage, truth, wisdom, and bravery. Miyowatisiwin is reflective of what Fire Services looks for in the characteristics of a firefighter.
Fire Chief Matthew Stamp of Enoch Fire Service said, “We have been working with Edmonton Parkland County for quite a few years now and we have great relations with them. We just signed an agreement in the new year. It is a two-way agreement, so Enoch Cree Nation assists the county with Fire Services too when needed. Enoch Cree Nation Fire Services has grown a lot over the years and there is lots of opportunity for work.”
The Miyowatisiwin Camp Inspire for Indigenous Peoples is taking place for the first time this year and the program leaders hope that it inspires Indigenous participants to pursue employment as firefighters. The first camp began in 2020 and focused on individuals who identify as women of gender. Two female participants from the 2020 camp recently graduated from further training and are now working as firefighters for the City of Edmonton.
The camp incorporated Indigenous culture into the program and opened and closed with a ceremony led by Elder Jesse Morin and Rocky Morin, a counsellor and spiritual leader. Over the three-day period, the camp provided participants with an introduction to the fire service in a safe, inclusive way; simulated fire ground training; skills and information that participants can take back to share within their community; and it provided an opportunity for self-growth and confidence building. Overall, the camp also provided participants with an opportunity to work along side members of the Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, ask questions and meet others interested in the firefighting profession.
Chris Turner, Recruitment and Outreach Liaison with Edmonton Fire Services and the coordinator of the camp said, “We have seen a lot of barriers get pushed past here, some people deal with claustrophobia, some people deal with fear of heights, it seems like within the family group that the participants have developed they are definitely able to help each other and encourage each other to push pass obstacles throughout the weekend”.
There was a total of fourteen Indigenous participants at the camp, mostly from the Edmonton area but Grayson Lawrence flew in from British Columbia just to attend. When asked how the weekend was going so far, Grayson said, “Absolutely amazing! Breaking stuff has been my favorite thing, we got to bust down a couple of doors yesterday and bust down some drywall and crawl through it – some mission impossible stuff.” Grayson also shared that he has learned that there is so much that goes on in this job and it is not just about doing the job right, it is about caring about what you are doing. The participants also enjoyed rappelling down six stories at the Poundmaker Training Centre. Edmonton Fire Chief Joe Zatylny shared that a participant can lose at least eight pounds of water for each drill that they do.
The camp provided good hands-on experience and allowed participants to get a taste of what it is like to be a firefighter. Fire Chief Matthew Stamp concluded by saying, “It is giving hope, being inspired as First Nations, Indigenous peoples. We are always looking for that sense of belonging. This is more of an invitation to say no matter how small or what your race is, if you are First Nation, it is an opportunity for all, no matter your size and no matter if you are female. It is engaging with the ones that want this as their dream and something they have a passion for but might have some doubt that they do not belong, or it is not for them. This is an invitation to say we want you to be part of the team!”