For as much as the land and environment within Eeyou Istchee has always been ultimately precious to the Crees, many of them have never considered the possibility of developing a career that is all about preserving this precious resource.
This is why three years ago the Niskamoon Corporation created an internship program that would bring the Crees to the land and give them some scientific training along the way.
“This is really just to expose people to working in environment as a career. The number of Crees working in environment as a profession can be counted on one hand. There are very few who even conceive this as a career,” said Marc Dunn, the Cree Environmental Internship Coordinator.
The internship program runs from the beginning of June until the end of August and is broken down into three one-month internships that centre around different environmental jobs on the land. These programs change annually as Niskamoon assigns the interns to the different projects that are happening during the course of that summer.
Students are first brought down to Montreal to do a week of classroom learning that provides information about the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and environmental laws in Eeyou Istchee. This time is also used to teach the interns about what kind of work they will be doing in the first segment of the internship and safety as well as basic First Aid and CPR. The students also learn about hydro-electric development, fish ecology, GPS use and maps and basic insect control. With their training completed for the month of June, the students head back to north to their placements and work for three weeks.
“We already define the placements before hand and then we sit down with the interns and scope their interests. Based on that we place them within the different placements that we have,” said Dunn.
The interns get the opportunity to work with firms that have been contracted to work on the Cree territories in a number of different fields. Those include: fish biology, archaeology, marine biology, Cree culture and heritage, environmental control and water quality.
Once the first segment of their internships is complete, the interns meet with Dunn for another week of classroom training to learn about their next placement. As Dunn explained, much of what they learn during these trainings are not things that can be taught on the job site, particularly due to safety concerns. The interns need to be well prepared before they enter their respective fields. The program has the same schedule for the following month of August.
Other than that participants are 18 years-old, there are no other prerequisites to enter this internship program. Though Dunn explained that the internship is definitely more geared towards students as some have managed to get university credit through the program, having a high-school diploma is not even necessary to get in.
At the same time he explained that this type of program is not necessarily for everyone as it is physically demanding and requires long hours.
“We have noticed over time that students are the type of people who tend to have the easiest time with it. It isn’t easy, it’s 10 hours a day, six days a week,” said Dunn.
In terms of the schedule, special exemptions are made for those whose schooling runs later than the date the program begins or starts back up before the program ends so that those who are really interested are not spared the opportunity of the program.
At the end of the summer, the interns are given a letter that summarizes their work during the duration of the program. These letters could come in handy for those applying for work in the environment or those applying for post-secondary programs relating to the environment.
So, whether you are interested in working or studying in a specific area of the environment or you just want to see if you have what it takes to work in the environment, the Cree Internship Program is taking new applicants. With any luck, you might be able to enjoy this unique experience and discover a new career.
For more info or to apply, contact Marc Dunn at 514-861-5837 or firstname.lastname@example.org