Bold Eagle, a unique program for Indigenous youth developed by the Canadian Department of National Defence in partnership with First Nations organizations from across western Canada, originated with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in 1988 and has expanded to include participation by Indigenous youth from all four western provinces and northwestern Ontario. The goals of the program are to develop self-confidence, self-discipline, physical fitness and teamwork skills. Bold Eagle consists of two parts: the development of cultural awareness through participation in a four-day “culture camp,” and military recruit training. To participate in Bold Eagle, candidates must be of Indigenous or Métis background, be at least 16 years of age, and have completed Grade 10 or equivalent. Participants are enrolled as recruits in the Canadian Forces at the beginning of the program.

The purpose of the culture awareness aspect is to ease the transition for the participants from civilian to military life. The culture camp is conducted by Elders of different First Nations and Indigenous groups, and focuses on common spiritual beliefs. Participants and their friends and families have the opportunity to attend a powwow as part of the program. The provision of Indigenous cultural awareness is a key component of Bold Eagle; it differentiates the program from all other military training programs of the Canadian Forces. Participants also attend the standard five-week Army Reserve basic military training course, held at Wainwright (Alberta) during the months of July and August. Taught by military personnel, the course includes general military knowledge, weapons handling, drill first aid, as well as navigation and survival skills. At the conclusion of the course, successful graduates are eligible to enroll in the Regular or Reserve components of the Canadian Forces.

Stewart Mein