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RAVEN Program

Naming of the Cultural Camp

July 2003

Rear Admiral Jamie Fraser along with support from the Chief of Maritime Staff, Vice Admiral Ron Buck and members of the Defence Team, wanted to do something positive to further relationships with the many aboriginal communities surrounding CFB Esquimalt. After discussions with Chiefs and Elders, it was found that their biggest concerns were for their youth. It was then that the idea of a summer employment program aimed at aboriginal youth came into fruition.

Originally patterned after the successful Bold Eagle program run by the Army in Wainwright, Alberta, it was felt that the Navy could succeed in this type of initiative. Planning began two years prior with visits to the Wainwright Camp and many options were discussed. Funding came almost too late to start this summer but with a lot of support and hard work, the program began on 29 June 2003 with 42 applicants. The program consists of three components: Enrolment Ceremony, Culture Camp and Basic Military Training (Boot Camp).

The Enrolment Ceremony consisted of a handover from the military to elders at Culture Camp. The objective of Culture Camp was to help prepare the youth for the next four weeks of basic recruit training. Elders were teaching Culture Camp. Here the youth learned traditional teachings, how to listen and be patient, how to work together as a team, how to have fun, how to be strong and not to give up and finally, how to be respectful.

The name of the program started with MARPAC Bold Eagle but there were differences between the Army version and the Navy’s proposal that we had to change the name. We consulted with local elders and they suggested the name of RAVEN.

Culture Camp began on 1 July 2003. On the first day, the youth were told that by the end of the camp, that they would have to name the camp and whatever name they came up with would stay on permanently. We had asked for ideas but none were forthcoming. We asked them to think about it during the coming week.

On Day 3, the elder began his morning discussion and somehow ending up relating a story of how a hummingbird would come into his yard and fly amongst the flowers. It was in the afternoon, that some of the youth brought a hummingbird to the elder. It had flown into a window and was stunned. The elder held it in his hands and offered a prayer.

Later that afternoon, I saw one of the young men carrying this hummingbird. I asked if I could hold it, and he placed it in my hands. The youth gathered around me. It was covered with white sticky stuff. I held it gently in my hands and spoke softly to it. I told him not to be afraid and that we would help him, if he let us. I placed my thumb over his head and put his beak in between my fingers, all the while speaking to him in a soothing voice. He seemed to understand and kept still. I slowly pulled this white sticky stuff off from his wings and claws. The sticky white stuff was cobwebs. He had flown through it and it caught on his wings and claws. After holding him about five minutes, I managed to clear the cobwebs. I released my thumb from his head and off he flew. He was free. We watched him until we could no longer see him.

It was the most amazing experience. The hummingbird was so tiny and fragile. It was beautiful, shiny and brilliant. What was amazing was the trust he had in us. I am proud of the way the youth had responded, so gentle and so caring with him.

When we had gathered back together in our circle it was discussed by both the youth and elders that this visit by the hummingbird had meant something. They all agreed this was a sign. The Culture Camp was being held in Coast Salish territory. In our discussions, we found out from the elders that this community once had a well-known powwow dancer called Hummingbird. That clinched it. The youth decided that this portion of the camp should be called Camp Hummingbird.

Another twist to this story relates to a dream I had had the previous Sunday. I dreamt I was walking along a path in a forest with my sister. We came across a small, shiny bird on a path. It was lying face down on the path with his wings spread out. I realized it was dead. I picked up the small bird and offered a prayer to the Creator to welcome the spirit of this bird into his world. Another bird, high above and behind me, spoke to me and said to fold his tiny wings under him. He thanked me for offering a prayer and said I would be rewarded.

I realized then that my dream had come true. The bird in my dream was the hummingbird. I had helped it and my reward was the naming of the camp.

After speaking to a friend about this, his interpretation was that the cobweb on the hummingbird represented the dream-catcher. It had caught my dream and made it come true.

Life is full of mysteries. I believe we have to be open to all that is possible. To take the time and be aware of what is around us and to listen to the teaching that are given to us. This was an important lesson that we learned at the Culture Camp.

Meegwetch and All my Relations,
Aldeen Mason (Ojibwe from Sagkeeng Nation)
For more details on the Raven program click here
Employment Equity and Aboriginal Liaison Officer
CFB Esquimalt

Friday, July 04, 2003

ABORIGINAL YOUTH SET TO EXPERIENCE MILITARY LIFE Aboriginal youth will lace up combat boots and head for basic training Saturday after completing the cultural camp component of the first-ever Maritime Forces Pacific Aboriginal Youth Training Program.

Forty-two Aboriginal participants from Vancouver Island, ages 16 to 29, are taking part in the summer employment program for Aboriginal youth. Modeled after the Bold Eagle program in Wainwright, Alberta, Maritime Forces Pacific RAVEN is composed of a four-day cultural camp, followed by a month-long version of basic recruit training.

“It’s a privilege for the Navy to provide this unique opportunity to Aboriginal youth,” said Rear-Admiral Jamie Fraser, Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific. “Not only will these young adults learn valuable life skills, but they will also have some fun and get paid at the same time.”

Participants will study the military structure, firearms safety, basic first aid and leadership skills during the military component. Upon completion each participant will receive their Basic Military Qualification and a training bonus of about $2,500.

“The RAVEN program is not a recruiting tool and there is no obligation for youth to join the military after graduation,” said Rear-Admiral Fraser. “It is the Navy’s hope that this program will increase understanding and strengthen relationships with aboriginal communities.”

The cultural segment is being held at Tsartlip Nation in Brentwood Bay. During the cultural camp, which is run entirely by elders from the three main tribal groups of Vancouver Island (Coast Salish, Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu chah nulth) youth will learn about other native cultures, as well as self-discipline and teamwork. The camp concludes with a purification ceremony at a sweat lodge, followed by a traditional feast.

“This is a great opportunity for Aboriginal youth to learn about the Department of National Defence and to learn about self-discipline,” said Karen Harry, Tsawout Nation. “The youth are looking forward to training, structure and meeting new people.”

The camp is tentatively referred to as RAVEN, but will officially be named by participants at the conclusion of the cultural camp.


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