Cruzer Meuse and his brother, Jesse, started out as participants in the L’nu Kamakn snowboarding program; now they’re both certified instructors, teaching the next generation of snowboarders.
Both of the Meuse brothers are from the Bear River First Nation, near Digby, now living in Wolfville as they continue their education at Acadia University.
For Cruzer Meuse, the program has not only taught him how to excel at the sport, it’s also boosted his self-confidence.
Both brothers first started with the program in 2013, shortly after it began.
“At the very beginning I was very hesitant about it,” Meuse said. “I was kind of scared, I’d never been snowboarding before.”
That’s changed in a big way. Meuse now teaches the intricacies of the sport to beginners, and uses it as a way to relax after a busy week of environmental sustainability studies.
“Pretty much as soon as I got into it, we were there as often as we could be,” he said. “Once I learned how to snowboard, I just wanted to continue and learn how to get better.”
Meuse stayed in the program as a participant for three years before getting his certification.
“At first being a coach with the program was a bit, well not awkward, but some of the people in the program were in the same year that we were,” he said. “A lot of the youth in the program didn’t mind it though, so we just kind of kept at it.”
Meuse said he’s happy to see the program continue to grow, but adds that there’s still room for more participation from some of the communities.
“I just want to help someone through the program the same way it helped me,” he said. “It gave me more confidence and I’m way better at snowboarding than I ever thought I could be.”
How it began
Jim Hepworth is the director of community programs and services with the Confederacy of Mainland Mikmaq. He’s also one of the coordinators with L’nu Kamakn skiing and snowboarding program.
He said he’s thrilled to see how much the program has grown since its inception.
Hepworth said he was at a sport conference in Portland, Oregon, when he ran into someone who coordinated a First Nation snowboard team. He realized then how beneficial it could be for First Nation communities in Nova Scotia.
Before long, Hepworth helped established L’nu Kamakn in Nova Scotia, with the help of other organizers and partners.
The program, which offers instruction in skiing and snowboarding, runs at Ski Martock and Ski Wentworth.
Participants range in age from 12-18 years, have to be drug and alcohol free and maintain a C+ average in school.
They have to have a positive attitude and have good community standing.
“It’s about producing leaders and mentors in our communities,” Hepworth said.
“We’re encouraging life-long, yearlong physical activity. Kids are often busy over the summer, but if they’re not into hockey in the winter, sometimes they’re not doing that much in the winter months,” he continued.
“In our communities we have a high risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, so this is another positive way that we can address this,” he said.
For Hepworth, the value that L’nu Kamakn brings to First Nations youth is incredible.
Funding comes primarily from the First Nations communities that use it. Fundraisers also take place during the year to help offset the costs. Support also comes from Snowboard Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, Maritime North East Pipeline, ADI, Ski Wentworth, Ski Martock, Ben Eoin and The Nova Scotia Tripartite Forum.
The program running at Ski Martock has participants from three bands: Acadia, Bear River, and Glooscap.
Andy MacLean, manager of Ski Martock, said the ski resort is proud to have partnered with the program.
“It has provided opportunities for youth from Mi’kmaq communities from the Valley and South Shore to take part in the lifetime activity of snowboarding,” MacLean said. “The fact that former program participants are now sharing their knowledge as instructors is a good sign the L’nu Kamakn has a bright future.”