This past September, the annual Youth Summit for Mother Earth returned for a fully in-person cross-cultural learning event held at Camp Wahanowin, on Chippewas of Rama First Nation territory.
In partnership with Plenty Canada, the Indigenous Environmental Institute at Trent University, and Walpole Island Land Trust, over sixty youth participated in educational workshops and team-building activities on the shores of Lake Couchiching.
A highlight of the Nature Guardians Youth Program, the annual Summit is a time for team cheers, exploring the outdoors, and most importantly, to connect young people from across Ontario who share a common goal: protecting and learning more about Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage.
Here is what three participants of the 2023 Summit reflected about their experience.
Networking session, Youth Summit for Mother Earth © David Pugh
Adam S., Sudbury, Ontario:
Enjoyable, eye-opening and thoughtful, the Ontario Nature Summit provided me with an opportunity to break away from my everyday routine and find truth in a spectacular environmental setting. I was most impressed by the Indigenous teaching provided, and feel the insight and knowledge so generously given will be a welcomed resource, which I will turn to as I mature and develop.
Having the opportunity to build friendships and learn in a diverse and inclusive environment is something that helps us all grow. I would like to thank Ontario Nature for hosting the annual Youth Summit and my sponsor, the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee. It was an event worth experiencing and one I will never forget.
Using materials from Ontario Nature’s birding backpacks, early morning birders turn their binoculars to observe warblers © Maya Davidson
Nova L., Alliston, Ontario:
My time at the Youth Summit was eye opening. It was truly heartwarming to see so many passionate youth with the same ideas and worries and passion as I, and yet how different we are at the time.
My favourite part of the Summit was the inclusion of Indigenous traditions and connecting today’s issues with Indigenous teachings. I have made many special memories, which I store in a special place in my heart, such as gazing at the stars at night, people coming together for the great group challenge, sharing stories around the campfire, and exploring the local nature. I am beyond excited for the many more Youth Summits to come!
Participants of a workshop titled “Walking Through Nature: A Beginner’s Guide to Ontario’s Natural World” pose with their findings: an American toad, black ash leaves, and a praying mantis © Anne Bell
Lili P., Peterborough, Ontario:
Hope – that’s the word that came to mind when I experienced the Youth Summit for Mother Earth on a sunny September weekend this year.
This was my first time at the Summit, and my first time as a mentor. Anxious excitement aside, I was thrilled to be connecting with like-minded youth from all around Ontario on topics surrounding nature. There was so much to learn from each other.
Surrounded by cedar trees, sunsets, and the smell of the lake, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be a young person working cross-generationally and cross-culturally to protect nature and find our place in the world.
The hope that I felt came about in threefold: hope for protection of nature, hope for each other to establish connection to the land, and hope that both these things would be a mind state that would last for 7 more generations.
As we sat around the campfire participating in a sunrise ceremony, I realized that hope can transcend into action, which can be the way that young people influence this world and work on mitigating a changing climate. By leading with hope, together.
A campfire under the stars with storytelling and marshmallows was a highlight of the weekend © Gillian Johnson
As another successful Youth Summit comes to a close, we enthusiastically look forward to next September and taking what we’ve learned together with us. See you next year, Summitters!
This project was undertaken with financial support from Transport Canada’s Commemoration Fund for the Victims of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Tragedy, Ontario Power Generation, 4imprint, the Chawkers Foundation, Enbridge Gas, the Southern Ontario Orchid Society, Orchid Species Preservation Foundation and the 44 organizations, companies and generous Ontario Nature members that sponsored youth participation.
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