Trav­el­ling the Credit has youth giv­ing free walk­ing tours of the Credit River, along with work­shops with Indige­nous lead­ers,


Aalia Khan is lead­ing a na­ture walk through Mississauga’s Cred­itview Wet­land, am­bling along a path­way and point­ing out the ben­e­fits of var­i­ous trees and plants.

Red-osier dog­wood treats arthri­tis and poison ivy rashes — “which is re­ally cool” — and Gold­en­rod is used to make tea, the teen says as the group of about15 lis­ten in won­der.

Aalia, 17, is shar­ing what she learned this sum­mer through Trav­el­ling the Credit, a pro­gram that brought Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous youth to­gether to learn about the his­tory, peo­ple and ecol­ogy of the Credit River. Indige­nous elders and lead­ers led the work­shops, which were run by the en­vi­ron­men­tal group Ecosource.

This month, sev­eral of those youth, in­clud­ing Aalia, are lead­ing free na­ture walks along the river. She says the work­shops helped deepen her con­nec­tion with na­ture — and she ap­pre­ci­ated learn­ing from the elders and lead­ers.

“I’m re­ally pas­sion­ate about the en­vi­ron­ment,” Aalia says. “I re­ally like how we learned di­rectly from them.”

Trav­el­ling the Credit was funded by the On­tario150 Pro­gram and work­shops were held on the Credit River and at the Mis­sis­saugas of the New Credit First Na­tion (MNCFN). Top­ics in­cluded tra­di­tional birch­bark ca­noe build­ing by Sylvia Plain; Métis his­tory and cul­ture in the area by Bill Mor­ri­son and Dar­lene Lent; and Anishi­naabe tra­di­tional foods by Mark Sault and Johl Whit­e­duck Ringuette.

Carolyn King, who led a work­shop about the his­tory of the MNCFN, says it’s im­por­tant to give youth “a more in­ti­mate look at, and re­la­tion­ship with, the First Na­tions com­mu­nity.”

“I think it will help them with their fu­ture per­spec­tive of the First Na­tions peo­ple,” says King, co-chair of the New Credit Cul­tural Com­mit­tee. “They need to know that we were there at the start, that we’ve been through a lot and we’re still here.”

And, she says, bring­ing Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous youth to­gether is “a first step to cre­at­ing and build­ing re­la­tion­ships.”

One of the pro­gram’s fo­cuses is on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, says Sarah Bale, en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion youth co-or­di­na­tor at Ecosource.

“We can’t get to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with­out first hear­ing and com­ing to terms with the truths of post-con­tact his­tory in Canada,” Bale says. “Lis­ten­ing to voices who have his­tor­i­cally been marginal­ized helped to make this pro­gram a unique ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, and the Indige­nous youth who par­tic­i­pated were a very im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion.

“Dur­ing our trips to New Credit First Na­tion, it was won­der­ful to hear some of the Indige­nous youth telling their own sto­ries about their own ex­pe­ri­ences and fam­i­lies.”

For Aalia, whose par­ents are from In­dia, the pro­gram pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to learn about Indige­nous cul­ture and his­tory. As she leads the na­ture walk, ex­cit­edly speak­ing of the heal­ing prop­er­ties of plants, she cred­its Joseph Pitawanakwat, who ran the work­shop about the Indige­nous sig­nif­i­cance of plants along the Credit River, for her new-found knowl­edge.

Pitawanakwat, who is from Man­i­toulin Is­land and a mem­ber of the Wik­wemikong First Na­tion, says he is de­lighted to hear that he made an im­pact.

The 26-year-old founded Cre­ator’s Gar­den, an out­door ed­u­ca­tion-based busi­ness, and says he mainly works with Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties. So, speak­ing with a di­verse group of youth was an un­usual ex­pe­ri­ence for him.

“This sort of caught me off guard and I just went about the day an­swer­ing their ques­tions — they had so much to ask,” Pitawanakwat says. “They were all re­ally young and ea­ger . . . They were hooked.

“Most of those kids walk by there ev­ery day, go­ing to school or stores, and they had no idea what was there. It was re­ally fun to be able to open their eyes to all the re­ally amaz­ing things that are right there.”

Now, thanks to the youth-led na­ture walks, some mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic may also have their eyes opened.

“That’s what we want to see: That the knowl­edge is be­ing shared and the ac­knowl­edge­ment of where it came from.”


One work­shop of­fered to youth through the Trav­el­ling the Credit pro­gram fo­cused on build­ing birch­bark ca­noes.


Aalia Khan, 17, leads a na­ture walk at the Cred­itview Wet­land. She says the Trav­el­ling the Credit work­shops helped deepen her con­nec­tion with na­ture.

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