Indigenous children make up only 8% of the overall Canadian child population, yet Indigenous children are vastly over-represented in the child welfare system – almost half (48%) of children and youth living in foster care in Canada are Indigenous. The effects of inter-generational involvement with child welfare has resulted in a pervasive and long-standing disconnect from culture and a loss of sense of identity for many of these children and families. Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada knows that connection to language, culture, community and identity is vital in the healing process for communities who have experienced challenges, and are integral to supporting the long-term outcomes for members of Indigenous communities, including those who have experienced child welfare.
The Back to the Land Program aims to support Indigenous children, youth and their families in reestablishing and fostering healthy connections to their Indigenous identities by giving them an opportunity to get “Back to the Land” through outdoor, land-based programs in natural environments that immerse participants in cultural experiences, traditions and knowledge.
With a focus on programs run by Indigenous-led organizations and informed by elders and knowledge keepers who respond to the unique needs and strengths of the highly diverse Indigenous communities across the country, Back to the Land programming can take many forms.
Programs such as overnight wilderness camps, participation sacred ceremony, medicine walks, arts-focused activities, and other initiatives that expose participants to the Indigenous way of being are valuable and serve to support healthy development through connection to land and culture. Through these experiences, participants in Back to the Land programs have the opportunity to learn about and connect with their roots, develop traditional skills, make friends and healthy relationships, have fun and build confidence in a safe, supportive and culturally-responsive environment.
Indigenous culture and tradition are woven into every aspect of the initiative and programs supported by Back to the Land, and it is through interaction with the land, water, supportive and caring adults, and the traditional teachings of their communities that children, youth and families find connection and pride about their culture and ancestors, an enhanced sense of self, and support towards a bright and healthy future.
Questions about Back to the Land? Please contact [email protected].