28 days of outdoor training prepares participants for the workforce

By Carla Moss, June 12, 2017

Stephen Charleson recognizes Cody Stewart for his completeion of the Hooksum Outdoor Leadership Training Program on May 27. The 28 days of training took place in remote Ayiisaqh in the traditional territory of the Kinkʷaaštaqumł Clan (Charleson family) of the Hesquiaht First Nation. (submitted photo)

Hesquiaht Harbour — 

He landed his dream job as a kayak guide only one day after celebrating his graduation from the 2017 Hooksum Outdoor Leadership Training Program. Twenty-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht Dale Mundy, son of Martha Stewart and Dale Mundy Sr., said his training “was amazing” and that he’d “definitely do it all over again.”

On May 27, Dale and 7 others completed the 28-day intensive training program held every May in remote Ayiisaqh, Hesquiaht Harbour in the traditional territory of the Kinkʷaaštaqumł Clan (Charleson family) of the Hesquiaht First Nation.  The remote location is only accessible by boat or float plane.

“It was good to disconnect,” said Dale, “from the internet and what not…just to step back.”

Dale said he’s never done anything as intense as this course and that the challenge made it fun.

“How fast we were going through everything, it was fun learning at that pace,” he said. “We got to do hands on training for lifesaving. That was interesting.”

Dale said the kayaking and radio operators course were especially engaging.

The Bronze Cross Lifesaving course left an imprint on 20-year-old Ashiele Thomas from Ahousaht, daughter of Bert and Patricia Thomas, especially the 600-metre swim that had to be completed in 18 minutes.

“It was in open water, there’s no joke to it, you’re swimming in freezing cold water in May and then you run into a jelly fish!” She said she thought about quitting but her instructor’s encouragement and faith in her helped to complete the swim.

April Charleson, NETP Case Manager, said the Hooksum students have a choice to do a 24 hour solo camping and survival trip. The students are given three matches, one potato and a sleeping bag only.  April said one lady who did a solo didn’t even get to eat her potato because a mouse came by her campsite and took a bite from it. Ashiele completed the full 24-hour solo trip. She said it was just a bit scary and, where’s there’s no light pollution she said, “it was a clear night so I got to see all the stars… even some shooting stars.”

When the students return from their solo trip, preparations are underway for the final celebration.

“At the beginning of the celebration the ones who did the solo are asked to stepped outside and the ones who didn’t do the solo do something to welcome them back in,” April Charleson explained. “The ones who left to do the solo break the group up, the ones who didn’t do solo made cedar bark headbands in recognition of their solo and to welcome them back, so they are all one group again.”

Ashiele said the certifications she earned at Hooksum will help her move towards her goal of working in tourism.

“I think tourism in general really attracts me: to be able to meet new people every day and see how fascinated they are with aboriginal culture and be able to talk to them about our history, to be able to tell others about where I come from,” she said. “If I apply for jobs in Tofino these certifications will help me out.”

Upon completing the 28-day Hooksum Outdoor Leadership course, students receive a number of certifications, including Red Cross First Responder, Bronze Medallion/Cross Lifesaving, Paddle Canada Sea Kayaking (Intro-Level II) and Radio Operators Certificate.

As two of six Nuu-chah-nulth members sponsored by the Nuu-chah-nulth Employment & Training Program (NETP) to participate in the training, Dale and Ashiele shared gratitude for the support they received.  The remaining four NETP sponsored graduates are Haily John-Hansen, Hudson Savey Sr., Cody Stewart and Verena Wilhelmson.