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Alexander youth takes flight with Bold Eagle

“I’m following my ancestors,” says Auigbelle
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BOLD EAGLE – Pte. Theron Auigbelle stands at order arms during a rehearsal parade at CFB Wainwright earlier this month. Auigbelle was one of 159 youths from across Western Canada to graduate from the Bold Eagle program on Thursday, Aug. 15. CONNIE VALIN/DND-MDN Canada

A new Bold Eagle has landed at Alexander First Nation, and he says he wants to serve his community as a cop.

Alexander’s Theron Auigbelle, 17, was one of about 160 youths to graduate from the Bold Eagle program on Aug. 15 at the 3rd Canadian Division Training Centre near Wainwright.

The six-week summer training program gives Indigenous youths ages 16 and up from across Western Canada a chance to experience military life and boost their fitness, confidence and self-discipline.

This year saw a record 228 youths sign up for the training, said Cameron Menzies, sergeant major of Bold Eagle – a quantum leap from the first class of 12 youths he saw back when the program started 30 years ago at Dundern, Sask.

Auigbelle said he signed up for Bold Eagle because he wanted to represent his community and show what Indigenous people could accomplish.

“I have a lot of family who went through Bold Eagle, and I felt it was my turn to step up to the plate and prove to myself what I’ve got.”

Bold Eagle puts candidates through the same five-week basic training course every soldier takes before joining the armed forces. Auigbelle said he had to learn to march, follow orders, apply first aid, clamber through obstacle courses, and clean and fire weapons as part of it. He and his teammates also had to spend five days camped in the field, navigating by map and compass, and using their camouflage skills to sneak up on their instructors who were stationed on a hilltop.

Auigbelle said one of the toughest parts of the course for him was actually just stepping into the recruitment centre to apply for it, as he wasn’t sure what he was getting into.

“It felt like I was climbing a hill,” Auigbelle said of the training, in that it got easier over time.

Auigbelle said he was proud to see his teammates stick it out and finish the course.

Bold Eagle also sees participants complete a weeklong cultural camp with Indigenous elders prior to basic training to learn more about their cultural roots, Menzies said. Participants visit a powwow, take part in a sweat lodge, build teepees, and speak with elders and veterans.

Auigbelle said this was cultural knowledge many participants didn't have, and that can help you become a more balanced person.

“They talk about being that warrior, the warriors our people used to have,” Auigbelle said, and the importance of looking after others.

“When we’re marching or going on a run, I always kept that in my head: I’m following my ancestors and what they did, and I’m sacrificing myself.”

Menzies said Bold Eagle graduates go home with the skills, drive and self-confidence they need to make a difference in their communities.

“They seem so proud to have accomplished something.”

Many go on to apply to join the army, navy, air force, reserves or police, he added – a record 108 did so this year (the usual is around 20).

Auigbelle said he learned a lot about teamwork, responsibility and respect from Bold Eagle, and the importance of putting others before yourself. He now hopes to join the RCMP.

“I just want to help my community.” has more on Bold Eagle.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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