Native Youth are leading the way on cultural wellness.

In summer 2018, we partnered with young leaders from the Turtle Mountain Youth Council to pilot our new Youth Rebuilders curriculum. The session went well, and youth participants reported that their Tribal governance and leadership knowledge increased as a result of attending. While reviewing the evaluation results, we noticed another significant outcome: our Youth Rebuilders overwhelmingly told us that they wanted to see future sessions incorporate a focus on cultural wellness

In thinking about the launch of our full Youth Rebuilders program (slated for 2020), we realized that we needed to teach both governance and wellness knowledge. Leaders can’t sustain their work unless they’re healthy. We put our Turtle Mountain Youth Rebuilders’ request into action and held a retreat to test out a new cultural wellness curriculum during summer 2019.

Summer 2019 Indigenous Wellness Retreat

On June 13-16, 2019, we brought an Indigenous Wellness Retreat to the Turtle Mountain community. Eight young Native leaders participated in activities focused on wellness and culture. We created space for youth to organize and lead several of the retreat activities because we believe strongly in youth-centered curriculum design. Here are some activity examples:

  • A pre-retreat sweat to prepare for buffalo teachings
  • Buffalo teachings (taking, transporting, and processing a buffalo)
  • Hands-on wellness activities led by Well for Culture
  • A grocery store tour focused on healthy and Indigenous food options
  • Storytelling and birch bark biting with Turtle Mountain elders

We are so excited about our new cultural wellness curriculum! Our youth deserve major credit for suggesting it

Our Evaluation Results

We incorporated evaluation throughout our retreat, including a pre- and post-session self esteem measurement tool. Overall, we saw wellness knowledge, cultural knowledge, and self-esteem levels increase when we compared our pre- and post-session assessment data. Here are some examples of the questions we asked to evaluate participants’ experiences:

When we designed the retreat, we’d hoped that our participants would come away feeling inspired to model Indigenous ways of leadership and wellness. 100% of participants agreed that they felt empowered to practice this behavior. (87.5% of that group strongly agreed.)

Community connectedness and belonging are important for healthy leadership. We saw a 38% increase in the number of participants who strongly agreed that they felt connected to their Indigenous community between the pre- and post-session survey.

The number of youth who “strongly agree” that the Youth Rebuilders Wellness Retreat is beneficial for their self-esteem and self-confidence increased by 38% between our pre- and post-session survey.

Here’s what our Youth Rebuilders had to say about their experience:

“This helped me grow as an individual. It helped me feel a sense of belonging in the leadership qualities I have.”

Youth Rebuilders Wellness Retreat participant

“I feel more confident and whole as a person, and it started a new journey for me to embark on!”

Youth Rebuilders Wellness Retreat participant

“I’m feeling a stronger sense of pride in being a person of color!”

Youth Rebuilders Wellness Retreat participant

“I feel confident as a leader. I feel more aware of my emotions and where I am.”

Youth Rebuilders Wellness Retreat participant

The results from our summer 2019 wellness retreat will help us finalize the design for the full Youth Rebuilders program. We plan to launch our full program next year: stay tuned! 

Thank you to First Nations Development Institute for supporting our Youth Rebuilders Wellness Retreat through a Native Youth and Culture Fund grant! This program would not have been possible without their support.

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