For the first time ever, the N.W.T.'s Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning will be offering a program in the Mackenzie Delta region.
Five high school students from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., will be learning and living on the land right outside of their community.
It's in a particularly important spot to Noel Cockney, the regional programmer for the Mackenzie Delta region.
"It's just a place where I had grown up and my grandparents, when I was younger, did a similar type of thing with my classmates, so I'm actually bringing it full circle," said Cockney.
Dechinta is a registered charity that offers on-the-land programming partly through federal funding and is known for its "bush university" which teaches university-accredited courses through land-based programming.
Cockney has been working with Dechinta for just over a year and participated in programming in Yellowknife. He said he's been looking to bring that type of on-the-land programming home, and thanks to the federal funding that Dechinta received in 2019, the organization has been able to expand to areas such as the Mackenzie Delta region.
The pilot project that Cockney is spearheading is three weeks, and will go from Sept. 13 to Oct. 4 in an area that's about a 15-minute boat ride northeast from Tuktoyaktuk.
The students will be getting class credit while they are learning, and Cockney will have visitors come teach the students about topics ranging from climate change to Inuvialuit history, and more.
"We'll be focusing on building a sod house which I'm really excited for because I grew up here my whole life and haven't really seen that construction happen," said Cockney. "Being able to provide that for younger students I think will really show a lot of the history behind the sod house and how we used to live, especially here in the Delta region."
Cockney has built tent frames and set up McPherson tents for the students and visitors.
'Northern Indigenous brilliance'
Kelsey Wrightson, the executive director of Dechinta, said the organization has been looking to incorporate programming that reflects "the diversity of Indigenous knowledges." She also said they've wanted programming that "really demonstrates what it means to invest in a knowledge economy that supports northern Indigenous brilliance."
Wrightson said the hope is for this to be just the first of many programs that Dechinta will be offering in the region. She said it's important that someone like Cockney is the one developing and leading the program designed specifically for his home region.
"We're just really excited to be working with Noel. Obviously this is a really new thing for Dechinta. We haven't done programming in the Delta before," she said.
"This is what happens when we put resources behind relationships."
For Cockney, his ultimate goal is to put on a program like the 16-week "bush university" and show youth that they can learn skills for their future outside of a classroom setting.
He said he wants to show students that "education isn't either all hard or bad as people make it seem."