Bushkids NWT was founded in 2018 by Wendy Lahey and Chloe Dragon Smith with the intention of driving change and filling a gap so that on-the-Land learning would become essential and accessible to everyone - especially children and youth in the public school systems. Indigenous peoples from this Land have been learning on and from the Land since time immemorial. Languages, cultures, peoples and knowledge systems all come from Land.
The Bushkids program is a training ground and demonstration site for educators – a place to trust how Land leads learning and that the Land “uncovers” a seasonal curriculum instead of the educator “covering” a curriculum that is often disconnected from the Land. Over the past five years they have conducted workshops and on-the-Land training courses for educators in Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Behchok’o, Deline, Inuvik and Yellowknife as well as multiple online workshops for organizations in the NT and across Canada.
From a Euro-Western systems perspective, there is a growing body of research in Western science that aligns with Indigenous knowledge and wisdom about the importance of Land. These studies have demonstrated a multitude of mental health benefits of Land-based learning for children and youth including: lowering cortisol levels, stress levels and anxiety, energizing the brain, an increase in focus and an increased sense of self efficacy. The Bushkids Program addresses the Hotıì ts'eeda priority of youth health and wellness, as well as the connection between environment and wellness, by focusing all our programming around the central principle: “Developing healthy relationships with ourselves, each other, and the Land."
Hotıì ts'eeda was pleased to support Bushkids programming, including training for staff, site improvements and program support, in their 2023-2024 season.