Hi, my name is Traci Blacksmith. I come from a small Cree First Nation community called Waswanipi in Northern Quebec.

Having grown up by the forest and right next to a river, I’ve always been a huge nature lover. A lot of my fondest memories are spending time in the bush with my family during Goose Break in May. During this time, we live off the grid, live out on the land and practice our culture. I’ve grown up with the belief that the environment is sacred. Since I was a kid, I was taught the values of my culture, and two of them are to respect the land and to appreciate it because it is our livelihood.

When I was finishing up high school, I wasn’t entirely sure about what I wanted to do in the future. The month of May of my last year of high school, everyone went on Goose Break and went to their cabins for two weeks to practice our traditional way of life. While I was in the bush, it was then when I was reminded how much I love nature and how we rely on the environment and that it needed to be protected. So when I got back home, I applied to the Environmental Studies program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario. This program taught me all kinds of different fields that you could go into, but the one that I was incredibly passionate about was conservation.

I applied to the Canadian Conservation Corps to learn more about conservation. When I first heard of the CCC program, I couldn’t believe it because it was the most perfect fit for me. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I really hope to bring the knowledge that I will gain from this program back to my people in the Eeeyou/Eenou Istchee (“The People’s Land”).

The opinions expressed are those of the participant and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.