Nicole Dupuis is an Indigenous woman from Thunder Bay who is mentoring youth through Ocean Wise, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of our worlds water.
As a local Aanishnaabe woman, Dupuis has taken a role of mentorship to educate and lead youth as a program coordinator with Ocean Bridge, a regional satellite of Ocean Wise.
Through a 10-day wilderness journey, Dupuis is leading youth through immersive adventures including, the development of a trail to a ceremonial site, critiquing a trail at Quebec Lodge in Red Rock, and a stay on Battle Island in Rossport to make a campsite near a working lighthouse.
This is a regional trek going across the north shore doing service projects.
These youth are aged 18 – 30 and participate in service work in their home community, as well as an immersive journey such as this.
“To get that indigenous component it’s a completely different worldview and the more you can understand that worldview gives you a better understanding of conservation in general.”
Indigenous practice for conservation
For Dupuis, this role of mentorship has a meaning that stems deeper than just employment.
She has the Indigenous knowledge and perspective pertinent to a deeper understanding to how important water is for our world and humanity.
“As an Anishnaabe woman, our role is to be the water keeper and to advocate for the water.”
By leading youth, Dupuis is taking a stance and making her voice heard for the appreciation and conservation of Lake Superior.
Learning and storytelling
Because of Covid-19, a journey that should have been a further adventure was forced to be contained in a bubble on the north shore.
The youth started in Thunder Bay at Fisherman’s Park West at the mouth of the Current River to do a shoreline clean up and an eco-superior plastics audit while staying at The Haven Hostel.
They also built and put up bird boxes to bring nature back to a park that has been enormously taken over by the capitalism of the milling industry.
“By doing a learning journey you’re getting those immersive experiences. We’re talking to different locals who know this area well who tell stories that are not often told.”
Four pillars of change
As Dupuis leads youth on a trek through the wilderness in a time when we have been taught to appreciate the solitude nature can bring humanity, she’s allowing youth to explore what water conservation means to them and the land they walk on.
Through this mentorship by an Indigenous woman who calls this her dream job, Ocean Bridge’s youth experience the four pillars of Ocean Wise’s philosophy for what needs to change for proper water conservation: pollution, unsustainable resource extraction, climate change and conservation.
As Ocean Bridge connects Canadian youth from coast to coast, Dupuis is using her position to spread the Indigenous practice of water knowledge and conservation from ear to ear.