By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

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A special “Buckskin Camp” hosted by the Ktunaxa Nation is being heralded for its healing benefits.

The camp’s second stage was held June 2 when the ki?q?a??i (elk) buckskin underwent a soaking and stretching process. 

Mara Nelson, a language supporter from Ktunaxa Nation, said the first stage of the camp (this spring) was wonderful. “It was definitely something that we all resonated with, and we’re welcome to have that.” 

Nelson said the soaking and stretching stage involves setting up a frame and pulling the hide in four different directions. The hide is soaked to make it thinner and more spongy. 

When asked what kind of materials they use, Nelson said it is only ki?q?a??i (elk). Beatrice Stevens, one of the elders, focuses on that material. Stevens is one of the elders who will share the knowledge she received from her mother in making a traditional buckskin. 

“She is amazing in all that she can teach us. And she has our language to go along with it, which is very  beneficial — not only just being able to revitalize those traditional skills, but to carry the language that goes with that.” Nelson said. 

Nelson pointed out this is the first time in many years that they had the camp, thanks to Barbara Fisher, a traditional knowledge and language speaker who proposed it. Nelson stated the camp is needed for its healing benefits.

“Our culture was lost with colonization. Many of us never had the opportunity to work with these hybrids, as we would have every day in our family life. Having back a sense of who we are, and our cultural traditions, is very important. It’s very healing.” 

Participants meet at Akisqnuk First Nation. The camp runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Food is available, and it is advisable to bring chairs, blankets, and gloves for this outdoor activity. “I’ll describe this camp as ?in? qaqa, as it is meant to be,” Nelson said. 

When Nelson held the animal skin she felt the sudden comfort she had always known. 

“The idea of holding an animal’s skin in my hand honestly wasn’t something I felt very comfortable with before. But once I got there, there was a spark in me,” Nelson proudly explained. “We all came home. It was really impactful. It’s like my hands are meant to be in that.” 

For more information about the camp, contact Nelson at (403) 392 6682 or [email protected]