Edwin ‘Buckshot’ Bikadi, right, spent a few days with members of the Warrior Program, teaching them the basics of log cabin building and how to handle a chainsaw. Based out of Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Ucluelet First Nation, the Warrior Program empowers young First Nations men to be leaders in their communities and to re-connect with their cultural roots. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

First Nations youth Warrior Program revives cultural teachings

“The program is designed for leadership development, and these guys are shining.”

Líl’wat First Nations and master cabin-maker Edwin ‘Buckshot’ Bikadi was on the Coast March 13-20 to teach young First Nations men how to harness a chainsaw in order to build a traditional log cabin.

The students are part of the Warrior Program, an outdoor education focused youth group that offers weekly gatherings in Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Hitacu.

On weekends, the Warriors come together as one larger group for camping trips. They rotate destinations, visiting Megin River in Ahousaht, Effingham Inlet in Ucluelet territory, and Indian Island in Tla-o-qui-aht.

READ: Indigenous tourism blossoming on Vancouver Island

Bikadi was taught the fundamentals of cabin building back in the ’70s and ’80s in Whistler.

He then went on to perfect the master craft in Lac la Hache and 100 Mile House.

The Warrior Program, Bikadi notes, is gathering the scattered teachings.

Haida First Nation Daniel Williams, 17, moved to Tofino approximately three years ago. The Ucluelet Secondary School student said the Warrior Program offers a consistent, safe space.

“The only reason why it’s so helpful and actually able to work is because it’s consistent. It’s a set time for safe space where you can just be yourself,” said Williams.

“Before Warriors, I was lost you could say. I was just not there. Slowly, I started to find myself again. It just took that consistency, that’s the only thing that really helped me was that consistency. It helped me settle down and make a home,” he said.

Seventeen-year-old Ucluelet First Nation James Walton, above, said he was excited to learn from Buckshot how to control a chainsaw.

He said the Warrior Program has taught him practical skills like: wood chopping, fire building, setting up tents, how to use power tools, and riffle range running.

“Before I was a lot shyer. It’s gotten me active,” said Walton. “It’s made me close with a lot of friends.”

Williams pointed out the cultural significance of the Warrior Program.

“We’re reinvigorating our cultural awareness. It’s re-stimulating that society we had pre-contact,” said Williams.

Elder and former member of Westcoast Inland Search and Rescue Raymond Haipee shares his knowledge about compass, tracking, and rope rescue with the Warriors.

“They’ve really grown,” said Haipee.

“Before they were really shy and quiet, but now they are out and working hard. They are learning, and we are learning off each other.”

READ: 800-year-old Vancouver Island log ready for United Nations project

Major Ricardo Manmohan co-ordinates and leads the camping trips for the Warrior Program. He credits Ucluelet First Nation Debbie Mundy for bringing the practical learning model to Hitacu young men about four years ago.

“I have learned so much about me through them,” said Manmohan, who holds a doctorate in Indigenous Leadership.

“The program is designed for leadership development, and these guys are shining. They are stepping up,” he said.

Westcoast Community Resources Society youth worker Waylen McLeod agreed.

“It’s better to overestimate than underestimate someone’s ability because you’re already putting a cap on where they can go when you’re underestimating, for youth especially,” said McLeod, a supporter of the program since its inception.

Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Warriors 2017 from On the Beach on Vimeo.

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