When a frequent visitor to Ouje-Bougoumou was told that the community was holding a computer science camp, she exclaimed, “Wow, the first time I visited here, which was only a couple of years ago, the community didn’t even have telephones, and now the kids are making their own web pages and communicating with people around the world!”

The latest successful project taken on by Ouje-Bougoumou is a science/computer camp. The camp, which ran for two weeks this summer, introduced 20 participants to fields of science such as geology, forestry, archaeology and computer science. This year’s camp was designed as a pilot project intended to identify the conditions necessary to operate a summer-long camp in the future. Because of the short time frame it was decided to narrow the camp’s focus and emphasize the use of computers in science.

David Denton of the Cree Regional Authority presented a demonstration on how the Crees use computers to map archaeological sites and keep track of traditional knowledge. The Ouje-Bougoumou Forestry Department was available to introduce the students to digital mapping, Geographical Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems.

Geology and mining issues were introduced through a visit to the Mining Museum in Chibougamau, and perhaps most importantly, Anna Bosum, Ouje-Bougoumou’s Cultural Coordinator, talked to the kids about traditional Cree culture and designs which could help link their past, present and future.

The majority of the students’ time was spent learning about computers and the Internet. The computer sessions were held at Petaapin Youth Centre and were taught by Peter Pronovost, a Mohawk computer expert and president of Kahnawake Computer Consulting. The students learned about the Internet, graphic art, how to use a digital camera and a scanner, and how to make web pages, which were then added to Ouje-Bougoumou’s web site.

For many of these kids, some of whom never used a computer before, this was a serious challenge, but one which produced excellent results. The students were fascinated with the technology and were so anxious to work on their web pages that they even asked for extra classes in the evening.

The camp was a clear success. When the idea was first raised, there were the doubters, saying that the camp would never happen and making excuses not to get involved. However, there were others who believed not only in Ouje-Bougoumou’s ability to run such a camp, but also in the importance of getting Cree youth more aware of the opportunities in science and particularly in using computer technology.

These supporters of the project included the Cree School Board, Industry Canada, the Secretariat aux affaires autochtones, Telebec, the Commission touristique de Chibougamau, David Denton of the CRA, and Mark Forsyth and Minnie Wapachee of Ouje-Bougoumou, each of whom generously donated money, time or equipment.

Bernard Perlman, Ouje-Bougoumou’s Economic Development Officer, was encouraged by the results of this year’s camp. “I was amazed at how much the kids learned and accomplished in only two weeks. The computer camp was such an obvious success and of such interest to the students that we are already making plans to have it run for the whole summer next year and to open it up to aboriginal and non-aboriginal kids from elsewhere,” he said.

“I’m also hoping this year’s success will make it easier for us to get more financial support next year. More funding would open the camp up to more kids. This year we had to turn away 20 kids who really wanted to come to the camp. Similarly, a longer camp would make it possible for us to provide more instruction in computer art and graphics and link it even more closely to Cree life and traditions.”

The web pages of the Crees’ newest web site developers can be seen at Ouje-Bougoumou’s web site at the following Internet address: http://www.ouje.ca/youth/Camp/camp.htm