Spotlight: NWT Youth Cultural Wellness Camps Provide Mental Health Programming to Indigenous Youth

Blog Post

In celebration of National Indigenous History Month, we’re highlighting the NWT Youth Cultural Wellness Camp.

In November and December of 2023, the NTHSSA partnered with Donald Prince of Four Roads Consulting to pilot two 14-day land-based mental health and wellness Camps for youth aged 12-18.

The Camp:
The NWT Youth Cultural Wellness Camp stands out with its unique approach. It integrates both Indigenous and Westernized approaches to counselling, providing a comprehensive and holistic experience for the youth. This approach is not just limited to the duration of the camp, but also extends to several months of aftercare once the youth return home. The team supporting youth was largely from the NWT and included Elders, traditional counsellors, clinical counsellors, and support staff.

Four Roads Consulting is an Indigenous-owned and operated business with a demonstrated history of successfully implementing land-based healing programs in the NWT.

Cultural Activities and Ceremonies Offered:

  • Feeding the fire daily
  • Lessons/stories about the drum, songs, northern lights
  • Sweat lodge
  • Smudging with local spruce/juniper/balsam
  • Cutting fish
  • Cooking/baking Bannock and fish
  • Medicine walks
  • Setting snares for rabbits
  • Drum-making lessons on animals, respect, and traditional songs

The positive impact of the NWT Youth Cultural Wellness Camp on the youth is evident.

Benefits identified by youth:

  • Felt safe, allowing them to open up to counsellors/elders and to themselves
  • Had opportunities to talk about their problems and find solutions/coping strategies
  • Developed insight and awareness of self and their individual situations
  • Met new friends and developed peer support
  • Know and trust that there are safe people who will meet them where they are at
  • Learned and participated in cultural activities/teachings

While all youth from the NWT who were interested in a healing and wellness program and who met pre-determined criteria were welcome to apply, a total of 17 youth participated and were from the Yellowknife, Dehcho, Beaufort Delta, Sahtu, and Tlicho Regions.

Next Steps:
The program received over 50 applications and a total of 18 spots were available between both Camps. This underscores the demand for this type of care. Both camps were part of a pilot project. However, the NTHSSA is currently conducting a formal evaluation and expects to incorporate culturally supportive mental health services into core programming.