Sophia Cyre, with the seven grandfather teachings on the wall at the Ni wi ci wakan – ‘My Friend’ Youth Centre at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. She’s the youth coordinator.

Original Published May 17, 2022

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Ni wi ci wakan – ‘My Friend’ Youth Centre is open and looking for people aged 12 to 19 who are interested in Indigenous culture.

Ni wi ci wakan is at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. It opened on May 2.

The courses are open to “anybody that wants to learn the culture,” says Barb Courtorielle, Friendship Centre executive director.

The exact focus of the courses will depend on the interest of the young people, but will likely include Indigenous culture and history, Cree language, life skills, Truth and Reconciliation, and land-based learning.

The Youth Centre will be open Monday to Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. People must sign up for a course.
“I want them to be committed to coming in,” says Courtorielle.

One of the goals with the Centre is to help Indigenous kids learn to be proud of their culture, says Courtorielle.

Another is “making learning fun,” she adds.

If needed, the Centre will also provide tutors.

“We’re helping them in every way that we can,” says Courtorielle. “Anything they need help with.”

The young people will be divided into two groups. The 12 to 14-year-olds will come on Monday and Wednesday. The 15 to 19-year-olds will come Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Special projects might run into the weekend.

As for the bells and whistles, these will depend on the young people signed up.

The application includes a survey of interests from Indigenous history to comic books. Some examples are game design, story telling, human rights, mental health, basketball, horse riding, fishing, bird watching, drumming and singing, beading, weaving, natural law, and the Youth Justice Act. There are many more and young people can add their own.

Sophia Cyre is the youth coordinator at Ni wi ci wakan.

Asked how long she’s been involved with youth centres, she says, “since I’ve been a youth. I started as a high risk youth. I became one of the mentors.”

At that time, Cyre lived in Edmonton and was connected with iHuman Youth Society.

Cyre’s most recent job was as a cultural worker with Sweetgrass Supports at the Mat Program in Slave Lake.

Before that, she worked at Swan River First Nation School teaching Indigenous art.

This item reprinted with permission from Lakeside Leader, Slave Lake, Alberta