A Samson Cree Nation community builder was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee medal last month for his role in bringing youth back to their roots with traditional hunting and providing wild game for the community.
Kacey Yellowbird, manager of Samson’s Youth and Sports Development department, started a community freezer program in 2012.
Yellowbird received the award on Dec. 10, 2022 in Camrose, as part of an awards ceremony hosted by the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association to recognize the service of Albertans in the recreation and parks sector.
“It was very humbling and I was very thankful,” said Yellowbird. “It’s a prestigious award, when I think about it.”
The program is a food security initiative that gives people in the community access to wild game and teaches young men hunting skills.
“It was a vision that was passed down from my grandfather,” said Yellowbird.
With the impacts of inflation and other factors raising the cost of living, Yellowbird said it’s only fitting the program exists now.
About twice a month, from September to February, Yellowbird takes a group of young men out hunting, teaching them the cultural ways, such as tobacco protocols.
Hunting is a survival tool and a way for young men to provide for their families and is the way their people survived since time immemorial, said Yellowbird.
The program then teaches the young men how to properly cut and bag the meat in their space at the Howard Buffalo Memorial Centre. The meat is then supplied to the community.
Donations from the community also help sustain the program when hunters donate their excess meat from a kill.
Yellowbird said the program was created for the people, by the people, as it started as a grassroots initiative. The program is a partnership between Choose Well and Alberta Parks and Recreation.
Another facet of the program is a partnership with the department of environmental science at the University of Alberta. When they have a successful hunt, they send the head and glands of the animal to the university’s biology lab to check for Chronic Wasting Disease.
The testing helps the university with their research and ensures the program is distributing fresh and safe wild game.
Although the program got a bit off track during COVID-19, they were able to continue to distribute meat to the community through drive-thru pickups.
Another focus of the Youth and Sport Development department is preparing Indigenous youth to compete at the highest levels of sport.
“I really believe that Indigenous youth have an insane amount of talent,” he said, adding he’d like to see more Indigenous representation in the Olympics and elite levels, in a variety of sports, rather than just hockey.
“To do that, we have to set a foundation within our community.”
The vision statement of the Youth and Sports Development department is to “develop and advance the well-being of our community by providing consistent, effective, and empowering programs and services in a safe and caring environment.”
As manager of the department, he’s strived to do just that: ensure there are facilities, programs and services in place to support the success of the youth.
Other services the department provides include weight training, yoga, children’s clubs for ages four to 12, a variety of programs for all ages, including after school programs and homework club, and a garden project.
As an experienced health specialist and a background in health, wellness and fitness, Yellowbird has taken that one step further and is graduating this spring from the kinesiology program at the Augustana campus in Camrose.
“I’m very pleased with the accomplishment he has supplied for the nation (with the Platinum Jubilee medal) and we will continue to support his program,” said Marvin Yellowbird, the chair of the committee that oversees Youth and Sports Development.
Marvin mentioned he was also a previous recipient of a QEII medal. He was awarded the Diamond Jubilee award in 2012 when he was the Treaty 6 Grand Chief.