Gwich’in Wellness Camp resurrected after decade long closure

Gwich'in Grand Chief Kyikavichik and the late Kristine McLeod back in Dec. 2021 at the Wellness Camp. (Photo courtesy of Ken Kyikavichik)

It has been 12 years since the Beaufort Delta region had access to the Gwich’in Wellness Camp–an area that offered culturally sensitive on-the-land programs for residents.

Now with a $2.3 million contribution from the Federal government the camp is preparing to open its doors once again.

Kelly McLeod is the Nihtat Gwich’in president and spokesperson for this investment.

“The biggest thing we hope to do is just create an inclusive and culturally sensitive place,” he says.

The money will help purchase essential equipment, such as snowmobiles, quads, and boats in addition to a large gazebo and a variety of tents.

Residents will also see new pathways leading into and around the camp.

McLeod hints at the idea of a potential detox centre or conference area in the future, as well.

“The potential for the facility really has no limitations,” he says.

As a child, he remembers the camp fondly as he was taught how to fish and snare rabbits, among other things.

“It’s just a nice place for people to gather, laugh and dance, talk and enjoy each other’s company,” he says, “but most of all, it’s (about) reconnecting with the land.”

Originally known as Rachel Reindeer Wellness Camp, the facility closed its doors in 2012 due to high operation costs.

Sharla Greenland is the chief operating officer for the Gwich’in Tribal Council, she says, it has taken years to get to this point.

This site symbolizes a“reclaiming of Indigenous knowledge, practices and values.”–with future programming set to focus on Gwich’in values.

A list of programs will be available by the end of the year, with the camp scheduled to be fully operational by summer 2023.

No fees are expected to participate in the camp.

This initiative is part of a more extensive assistance program to fund Indigenous cultural centres across Canada.

The camp is located south of the town of Inuvik.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. Mariah is excited to begin her journey and career in Yellowknife, NWT, and get involved with the community. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com