Home Outdoor education Nunavik’s outdoor education program empowers young Inuit

Nunavik’s outdoor education program empowers young Inuit


Nurrait is Inuktitut for baby caribou – or young caribou in French – and the Nurrait | The goal of the Jeunes Karibus organization is to help young Inuit grow up.

“For 2020, 2021 we had around 300 participants in our program, despite the pandemic,” said Director General Hugo Dufresne. “Last year, we were able to be present in all 14 [Nunavik] communities. “

At a time when many young people are feeling the isolation caused by the pandemic, Nurrait has managed to maintain its programs, with some modifications, and is seeing some of its early participants begin to take on their own leadership roles.

Created as an outdoor adventure program for students, Jeunes Karibus has grown over the years to provide professional development, leadership training and opportunities to connect with Elders and Inuit culture.

“Not all young people have the same access to nature and traditional activities,” said Dufresne.

“We never go out onto the land to camp or on expeditions without hiring community members to guide us and share our knowledge with the young people. “

Last summer, the organization hired a social worker and launched a new intensive program for youth who are having difficulty staying in school, dealing with bereavement or other personal challenges.

“Today is our eighth edition of the Nurrait program, but now we have three other programs also for the young people of Nunavik,” said Dufresne, who has been with the group for three years and recently took over from founder Valérie. Raymond.

“It went from practicing a healthy lifestyle … to providing real intervention tools: communication skills, how to express your emotions, how to understand them.”

Nurrait coordinators and participants | The Karibus Youth Ikaartuit program has built a cabin south of Kuujjuaq, Quebec. last summer. The nonprofit offered its first crash courses in social intervention in 2021, teaching teamwork and carpentry skills and encouraging personal and social development. (Nurrait | Young Karibus)

On the ground

Raymond started Nurrait as a pilot project to show his students the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle.

The young people registered went cross-country skiing every week after class and received advice on how to work on their mental health. They trained with Raymond throughout the school year, preparing for an expedition. That summer, the group skied 90 kilometers from Kuujjuaq to the neighboring community of Tasiujaq, camping along the way.

The program was so popular that Raymond launched Nurrait | Jeunes Karibus as a non-profit organization in 2015. As it grew, the organization spread to other communities in Nunavik and, eventually, the Tuttuit (adult caribou) program was a next step. natural.

“The students were going through the Nurrait program, getting older, some of them still wanted to be part of the organization,” Dufresne said.

“It’s basically a work placement program, they can lead the student team and we give them job opportunities for their first job out of high school.”

To grow

For people like Joshua Kettler, an Inuit from Umiujaq who joined the Young Karibu board last month, the program has been life changing.

“It really helped me grow,” he said, adding that before joining Nurrait as a teenager, he spent a lot of his time after school online rather than online. outside. “The program is much better than that,” he said, “you go out into the field, looking for your own culture.”

“I started out as Nurrait and worked my way up and became Tuttuit after doing three expeditions.”

Kettler says working through both programs boosted his self-esteem – and his resume – earned him a job with Nunavik Parks after graduating from high school. He quit this job last year – he has his hands full with two young girls at home – but says he looks forward to sharing the Jeunes Karibus experience with the youth in his community.

“This is the biggest goal for me is to involve as many young people as possible,” he said. “Now I’m on the other side of the program.”

Food | Jeunes Karibus organizes weekly outings, overnight camping trips and annual expeditions for young Inuit throughout Nunavik. Since its founding in 2015, the non-profit organization has gone from an outdoor adventure program in Kuujjuaq to a social intervention and activities in the 14 communities. (Nurrait | Young Karibus)

Ikaartuit: a herd of caribou crossing a river

The third and most recent addition to Jeunes Karibus is the Ikaartuit program, supported by psychosocial worker Jessica Guimond-Villeneuve who joined the team last year.

Dufresne says that Ikaartui is aimed at young people who no longer attend school or who have been referred by social services. These are intensive projects or excursions generally organized in summer.

“He is aiming for a specific development,” he said. “Let’s say that we have a group confronted with mourning, like the loss of a friend, we are going to live an outdoor experience by approaching the mourning… Young people unable to have a job and to keep it, we will have a project of cabin construction to help them enter into adulthood.

“We target the specific needs of young people, create a group around those needs and go out into the field to try to solve the problems they are facing.”

Dufresne says Jeunes Karibus has seven people working full time, but the program could not take place without its more than 30 volunteers – mostly teachers from the Katavik School Board – who organize community outings every week.

In a typical year, there would also be two overnight camping trips and a final cross-country ski expedition where several communities come together. But things have had to be scaled down, kept in smaller bubbles, or moved online over the past two years due to public health restrictions.

Dufresne says that in the future, he wants to strengthen the traditional and cultural elements of the programs and include more Inuit knowledge and experience.

“It’s really important to us, but it’s also a big challenge to find these people in all the communities,” he said, referring to the Inuit elders and traditional knowledge keepers who help with the trips to camping and expeditions.

“For the first time this year, we have two Inuit on our board of directors. We are trying to give more space in decision-making to the Inuit and to have more Inuit involved in the organization, ”he said.

“This is the direction we want to take for the years to come. It has always been present but we want to move even faster in this direction.”