September 28, 2023 | Images by Hahn Vincent
Last month, the ʔaq̓am Band of the Ktunaxa First Nation offered its youth the chance to spend time in their traditional territory on a special, multi-day leadership gathering with CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures.
At the end of August, 48 ʔaq̓am youth, elders, and other members of the Ktunaxa community spent five days together at CMH Galena, a CMH heli-skiing lodge located in the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa First Nation.
Participants explored their relationship to the land and to their community and had the opportunity to bond, engage in ceremony, and learn from each other.
This was the fourth time ʔaq̓am and CMH partnered to host the empowering get-together.
At this year’s event, elders shared knowledge with youth about language, genealogy, plants and traditional games. The days also included fishing and fly tying, canoeing, forest walks, music, and creating artwork with a local artist.
CMH guides and a pilot flew the group to hike the surrounding landscape, visit a glacier and cool off with a swim in an alpine lake.
“It was an incredibly special few days,” said Hahn Vincent, CMH’s Manager of Community Collaborations. “The time is all about community and learning from one another.”
Empowering future leaders
Bonnie Harvey, ʔaq̓am Governance Coordinator, described the ripple effect she sees when youth experience a true connection with their traditional territory.
“It’s important to be able to connect with the land so that we have that sense of belonging, that sense of responsibility,” Bonnie said. “This Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis—this traditional territory that is ours—it’s one thing to know it, it’s another to be able to participate in the Ktunaxa Creation Story… to know this is our homelands, because this was shared with us.”
This year, the group spent time discussing how to be leaders in their community. They walked through the band’s leadership and cultural reporting activities and talked about their responsibilities as ʔaq̓am youth, who range in age from 11-25 years old.
“We have many youth who have returned to this camp for multiple years, and who clearly have a connection to the places we visit, “Hahn said. “They are leaders in their peer group and surrounding communities.”
Building meaningful connections
The time spent together at the leadership gathering is just as impactful for the 13 CMH staff who help host it. CMH staff take care of hospitality at the lodge, provide chef-prepared meals, fly the group into the mountains to hike, and showcase the breadth of career possibilities available in adventure tourism.
“All of us are incredibly excited to be a part of it,” Hahn said. “We learn as much or more from the youth and community members as they learn from us. It’s an amazing experience.”
“It’s so important that we maintain these meaningful relationships, that it’s not just ticking boxes; it’s important to bring it back to that reciprocity,” Bonnie added. “I really appreciate these meaningful relationships, and CMH has gone above and beyond. It just fills my heart.”
Dave Butler, Vice President of Sustainability at CMH, echoed that power of partnership.
“We’re incredibly honoured and humbled to work with our friends at ʔaq̓am and the Ktunaxa Nation. These leadership weeks are one of the ways CMH honours its commitment to reconciliation and to building trusting, meaningful, and mutually beneficial partnerships that respect First Nations’ languages, cultures and histories.”
This year’s gathering wrapped up with a gift-giving ceremony and warm farewells until next year.
The lands we roam
The ?aq’am is a First Nations community situated within the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation. Learn more: www.aqam.net.
CMH is honoured to operate in the traditional unceded territories of the Ktunaxa, Secwépemc, Syilx, Sinixt, Carrier, and Stoney Nakoda Nations. We acknowledge the past, present and future generations who celebrate and steward this land.