Carlin Nordstrom is returning to Poundmaker to make a difference.
Nordstrom is from Poundmaker Cree Nation and runs a land-based learning program called Kisik Sports, Health and Wellness, in which Chief Poundmaker School students are participating.
Students learn some of the intricacies of hunting and fishing, along with other lessons. Nordstrom also teaches diabetes awareness, female empowerment, and cultural and suicide prevention workshops.
Healthy lifestyles is another topic of workshops. Nordstrom said the food obtained as a part of the program is clean and healthy.
Nordstrom said he also covers some treaty rights, and what First Nations people are and aren’t eligible to do in terms of harvesting from the land.
“We’ve seen positive results,” Nordstrom said, adding a researcher with the University of Saskatchewan has looked at the benefits of the program.
About 90 per cent of participants in the land-based learning program, Nordstrom said, are completely new to fishing and hunting.
At school, students sometimes ask “when they’ll go back out,” Nordstrom said.
Nordstrom is a former professional hockey player, who played for the local North Stars, Western Michigan University, and briefly for the Ottawa Senators. Previously in the construction industry, Nordstrom is also a motivational speaker.
Inspiration for the project, Nordstrom said, came from watching the news and learning of “the suicide epidemic sweeping across First Nations in Canada.”
“[I] just wanted to help out in that regard and I knew I had a skill set,” Nordstrom said.
According to a Kisik pamphlet, Nordstrom has worked with over 30 communities in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and plans to involve Chief Little Pine School students in future trips.
Funding for the program comes from Health Canada and is connected to Jordan’s Principle. Different levels of government fund different services for First Nations children, especially those living on reserve, according to a Government of Canada publication.
Jordan’s Principle is a Canadian legal obligation in which the government of first contact pays for a service, rather than denying services until disputes are resolved. Jordan Anderson was a disabled boy in Manitoba, and “federal and provincial governments couldn’t agree on who should pay for his home-based care.” Anderson later died at the age of five in hospital.
Nordstrom said he didn’t imagine he’d end up teaching land-based learning after his pro hockey career, but called the experience “gratifying.”
“I'm very, very happy that I did,” Nordstrom said, adding he’s “fortunate to have ended up in this spot.”