Program aims to boost relationships with police, Indigenous youth

The second annual Mooz Akinonmaaget Maa Aki Moose Hunt initiative was launched Thursday in Sudbury.

The program aims to build positive relationships between Indigenous youth and Greater Sudbury police.

“The police and the agencies are always there in an unfortunate situation where either the youth or their caregivers are removed from the residence," said Const. Darrell Rivers, Indigenous liaison officer.

"That traumatic knowledge memory stays with the kids. So how do we rebuild that? How do we get them to trust us again?”

The program is a partnership with Niijaansinaanik Child and Family Services, Nogdawindamin Family & Community Services, Kina Gbehzgomi Child and Family Services, Children’s Aid Society, Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Youth are selected from each organization and paired with a Sudbury police officer and an agency mentor.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, they learn about traditional Anishnawbek values through the Seven Grandfather Teachings and participate in training and activities, including hunting education, firearms safety, the moose hunt and teachings on gratitude and giving thanks.

Last year six youth took part and two moose were harvested. One was donated to the Shkagamik-Kwe wild game food bank while the other was divided among participants and enjoyed during a traditional feast.

Organizers said it was a huge success.

“We were successful in purchasing 50 acres of land just last year so this partnership was actually the first group that accessed the land as a community event,” said Angela Recollet, Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre CEO.

"We were honoured to have the youth and our partners in the police service and the courage of the officers to stand up as leaders, role models and mentors breaking down that stereotype around policing and ensuring that they were giving youth a different lens to look through."

This year, there will be eight participants. The Rainbow School Board will award participants two co-op credits, as well as volunteer hours for completing the program.

The moose hunt will take place over a weekend in September followed by a traditional feast.

“All of the non-Indigenous participants and mentors are not hunting, they are observers," said Rivers.

"It’s the Indigenous mentors who will be doing the harvesting and the kids are not going to be shooting guns. For that cross-cultural component, they’re going to learn what we do when we harvest and how we respect the gift that was given to us.”

Linden Robotham, 13, is one of the participants. He said he’s most excited to learn about the land.

“It's very helpful for the youth so that we can learn more about the culture and where our land came from.”