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Little Red River: Aweena Naya
Aweena Neya is a successful youth program that offers activities, workshops and other opportunities to support and build up the youth of LRRCN; so they can be proud of themselves, know where they come from and live in a meaningful way.
Aweena Neya helps youth to feel they belong with youth workers to guide them to understand life’s consequences through education on healthy relationships and through maintaining strong partnerships within LRRCN Departments.
Aweena Neya means, “Who I Am” in Cree. It is a project based on the partnership between Ever Active Schools and Little Red River Cree Nation Health Services, including three Woodland Cree communities: John D’or Prairie, Fox Lake and Garden River.
The objective of this project is to work with youth workers, community champions and youth to develop and strengthen the relationships, well-being and connections with community, land, culture and traditions in these communities. By building upon existing strengths and skills, we can build capacity within youth and strengthen their sense of belonging and positive mental health.
For Indigenous youth, knowing one’s identity is crucial to gathering knowledge and strength to live the best quality of life possible. Aweena Neya strives to support youth with culturally relevant activities by connecting with local Elders and practices on the land. In Little Red River Cree Nation, the land is vast and beautiful, and it dictates the pace of life in the North.
Our goal at Ever Active Schools is never to prescribe a solution to a community based on our own external views. Rather, we work with the community to identify their needs and how we can support and what tools we can provide for meaningful, sustainable action. This can look like in-person and virtual training, youth mentorship programming, prevention training, wellness workshops and more.
The Aweena Neya project was first formed in March 2021 and has already shown promising results. We’ve hosted AMA Youth Run Club summer activities, team training and community-specific activities, and we are continuing to develop wellness workshops, youth programs, community-specific resources and more. Youth workers from the communities have been actively involved in engaging youth and other community champions. They have led activities like hand drum making, which led to Youth Hand Game nights; Seeseequon (rattle) making for ceremonial purposes; and summer sewing nights for local youth to make their own ribbon skirts, shirts and regalia.
Most recently, the youth workers have attended training and team building activities, hosted by Ever Active Schools. This time was spent defining Aweena Neya’s mission and vision statements, developing a strategic plan guided by SWOT analysis, and defining two- and ten-year plans for the program. This led to planning monthly themed activities, like a Family Day Hand Games Festival, and regular events for youth, including arts and crafts nights, Elder’s nights, movie nights, board game nights and more.
We are constantly learning and growing together as we look for the best ways to support youth in building community connection and resilience.