How a 19-year-old man is helping Indigenous youth overcome mental health struggles
A 19-year-old man from Ochapowace Nation organized a youth mental health hunt to help Indigenous people aged 15-35 connect with the land while opening up about their personal struggles.
Boston Bear said the idea came to him four years ago to host a hunt, but he only recently opened up to his family about what he was struggling with.
“I’ve suffered and battled with anxiety, depression and schooling and suicide,” Bear said. “Hunting was just something that helped me cope with my struggles. It’s something I’ve struggled to talk about, even to this day.”
The camp consisted of 30 youth participants and 20 adult staff members from around Saskatchewan and beyond. They spent one week camping in the woods at Moose Mountain Provincial Park while living off the land.
They spent time hunting, learning traditional practices, hearing from guest speakers and taking part in ceremonies. All elements focused on mental health.
“To see the youth engage in land base is huge. Bringing them back to the land and showing them identity and seeing the wonder if it all,” Damon Delorme, urban councillor of Cowessess First Nation, said. “Watching their confidence levels soar is huge.”
Facilitators and guest speakers came in to share their knowledge about living off the land with the youth, and encourage them to open up.
“When we’re out in the bush hunting, and you’re sitting and waiting for those animals to come out, you have a lot of things that go through your mind,” Myron Bob, a facilitator of the camp, said. “The mental health part is how they felt when they were out here and the connection they are making to the land.”
The camp wrapped up on Friday, but Bear said it won’t be the last. He plans to host another hunt next year in hopes of helping even more people open up like he saw from participants this weekend.
“I didn’t think there was this many people. That had their own battles that they never bothered to share or didn’t know how to share,” Bear said. “I still don’t know how to share my story. It’s still a learning process for me. But this helped”