This year’s science and environment workshops at the Nibinamik Youth Retreat were part of the training for the RoFATA Environmental Monitoring Training Program.
“(The youth) really enjoyed it,” said Harry Bunting, a Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance (RoFATA) environmental monitoring student from Constance Lake. “They learned quite a bit actually, and so did I. I was able to do some sampling of fish, learned how to age a fish and what to do when you are sampling and doing your protocols to help assess the water quality and assess the environment itself.”
The Environmental Monitoring Training Program is being delivered by Four Rivers Matawa Environmental Services Group at the Matawa First Nations building in Thunder Bay.
“As part of the training program, students are assigned to real community based projects or initiatives so that they can learn to do the work by actually doing it,” said Sarah Cockerton, manager of environmental programs at Four Rivers, in an e-mail. “This year, the environmental monitoring students organized, prepared and delivered the science/environmental workshops to the youth in addition to planning and organizing a lot of the logistics to the trip itself.”
The Four Rivers staff and the environmental monitoring students travelled to Nibinamik on July 14 for the youth retreat and returned on July 18. Soon after arriving back in Thunder Bay, the environmental monitoring students were back in class.
“We’re looking at the land and the effects of the water and the mining that is coming into our area,” Bunting said. “Right now we are learning about microbenthic invertebrates, that is, looking at water insects.”
Bunting and the other 10 students have completed about 10 weeks of the 24-week environmental monitoring program as of July 25.
“It is quite intense,” Bunting said. “(We are) learning quite a bit about biology, chemistry and water tables and how the water flows, how the environment works.”
Bunting looks forward to future employment opportunities after he completes the program.
“The training I am receiving right now is working towards on-the-job training,” Bunting said. “So there is a job opportunity in this field.”
The environmental monitoring program is one of a number of RoFATA programs announced this past May. A partnership between Matawa First Nations — Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services, Noront Resources Ltd. and Confederation College of Applied Arts and Technology, RoFATA’s key objective is to provide training-to-employment opportunities to support the Matawa First Nations people. Funding for the initiative was provided through the federal government’s Skills and Partnership Fund.