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NAPS, Turtle Concepts take confidence-building program to Sandy Lake

The partnership between Turtle Concepts and NAPS began little more than a year ago when Chief of Police Roland Morrison observed the group in Thunder Bay.
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SANDY LAKE FIRST NATION -- Everyone has the right to feel good about themselves.

That message is the signature tagline of the organization known as Turtle Concepts, which recently formed a partnership with the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service that saw the group bring its four-day “Open Your Hearts” program to Sandy Lake First Nations.

Turtle Concepts, established in 1999 and founded by Dave and Daniel Jones of Garden River First Nation, is an organization that has visited hundreds of First Nations communities with its motivational and confidence-building workshops.

In Sandy Lake, Turtle Concepts’ key goal was to leave residents with unapologetic confidence in themselves and their community.

“So many times we hear the word ‘humility,’ and in a First Nation community, if you look at our history, you don’t get to see a lot of over-the-top pride,” said Dave Jones.

“So, I wanted to build an entity where young people, older people, and entire villages would see pride over-the-top and not be humbled.”

Jones, and Turtle Concept’s "Open Your Hearts" program, pushes back against humbleness. From Jones’s perspective, being humble means holding back. This can be counterproductive when Turtle Concepts is attempting to encourage people to get loose and bust out of their proverbial shells.

The partnership between Turtle Concepts and NAPS began little more than a year ago when Chief of Police Roland Morrison observed the group in Thunder Bay.

Chief Morrison was aware of the group and its programming, but it was the first time he witnessed Turtle Concepts first-hand.

“He was really intrigued by it,” Jones said. “He got excited, he got emotional even, because he saw kids of the north in a school in Thunder Bay who were really excited, laughing, and having fun.

“We hear about the grief, we hear about the tragedies, but we need to see the other side too. You can’t be what you haven’t seen, so we put it right in front of (the students) and (Chief Morrison) loved it.”

Meanwhile, having NAPS involved in the four-day "Open Your Hearts" program gives officers an opportunity to make connections with the youth away from their law enforcement authorities.

NAPS Const. Tyler Moskalyk was among the officers participating in "Open Your Hearts." Some participating officers remained in their NAPS-issued uniforms while others, like Const. Moskalyk, wore a more casual and comfortable Turtle Concepts hoodie.

“I feel like these kids can see it’s my first time with Turtle Concepts and they can see that maybe I’m doing some things I wouldn’t normally do,” Const. Moskalyk said. “It’s going to help me gain confidence too, and the kids can see that.”

In addition to practicing what Turtle Concepts preaches, Const. Moskalyk’s participation, along with his other NAPS colleagues, is helping to bring down barriers between the police service and community members.

The hope is that by seeing officers, in and out of uniform, participating in programs like "Open Your Hearts," the officers’ human side will shine through the authority they typically represent.

For Joel Kakepetum, the "Open Your Hearts" program certainly delivered the confidence it promised.

Donning a silver cowboy hat and corduroy jacket, the Sandy Lake First Nation teen said the four-day seminar helped reinforce feelings that he could push back against peer pressures by being, and expressing, himself as he chooses.

“It helps me a lot,” Kakepetum said. “Because, just how I dress, it really just makes me want to dress like this more and it really just boosts my confidence.”

To learn more about Turtle Concepts, visit them online at: turtleconcepts.weebly.com. To learn more about a career with the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, visit joinnaps.ca.


Submitted by the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service.