Christian camp preserving First Nations culture

Kids Culture Camp teaches the gospel through Aboriginal tradition

SUNDRE, AB—Kids Culture Camp is offering a unique twist on summer camp, teaching the gospel through Aboriginal tradition. On August 1, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, My People International and the Edmonton Native Healing Centre kicked off the annual event; a First Nations take on the Christian summer-camp experience.

“More than anything we want to create a safe place for the kids to hear the story of Jesus,” says camp co-director, Michelle Nieviadomy. “We want them to feel comfortable in who they are as native people, but also to know they can worship God in who they are.”

For the past several years Kids Culture Camp has been filled to capacity, with 60 Aboriginal campers, ages eight to 12. Although some kids have received Christian teaching, Nieviadomy says it’s a mixed group, with a many raised in traditional native spirituality.

“We are very aware of the history of the Church and our people,” says Nieviadomy. “Sometimes when you say the word ‘Jesus,’ it comes with mixed feelings. We’re not shy about the name Jesus, but we don’t want a name to be a stumbling block. So if ‘the Creator’s son’ connects people more to the story, we use that.”

Throughout the day, kids participate in traditional native crafts, games and culture. Campers ride horses, sing worship and camping songs with a powwow drum and learn traditional dance.

“The different activities give campers a place to see we can worship God and walk with our Creator as native people. For example, dancing is a way we pray, so we really try to teach prayer. Some of the kids go back to very difficult home environments, so helping them develop a prayer life is a big key.”

Justice Potskin has attended for five years, returning as a Oskapew (Cree for “helper”) as he grew older. His camp highlights are sleeping in tipis and the campfire traditional and gospel story-telling.

“I love camp. It gives children the opportunity to try new things, meet new people and learn about The Creator,” he says.

Nieviadomy says although camp is short, the staff believes the seeds they plant can have a powerful impact.

“One of our main priorities is that these kids feel loved. We want these kids to know they belong at camp and they belong to the Creator. We believe they will know the Creator and His Son because they were so well loved at camp.”

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About the author

Senior Correspondent

Craig Macartney lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where he follows global politics and dreams of life in the mission field.