Port Alberni RCMP Cst. Pete Batt has taken lessons humanity has learned from our ancestors and turned it into an outdoor survival program for youth.
Our forefathers hunted and gathered, built fire, used tools they made from rocks and other materials, and navigated safely through incredibly difficult terrain. They were forced to survive many difficult periods by relying upon their survival instincts and skills. Many of these functions have been mechanized over time; however those who recreate in the outdoors still rely heavily on many of these basic survival skills.
Batt recognized that these skills can be used to reinforce the life skills youth need to survive in today’s world.
As a police officer delivering programs in schools designed to build reliance and drug resistance, Batt recognized a gap in delivering his message to children who had been exposed to drugs on a consistent basis or had encountered other barriers in their lives. He surmised that by adopting other programs in addition to the ones already in place, he could help children become more resilient and eventually become more successful.
Batt is making it his mission to ensure that local youth learn to access these primitive survival skills to succeed not only in the outdoors, but in life, regardless of any situation they find themselves in.
Batt’s interest in the outdoors began at an early age when his father, who was also a Mountie, exposed him regularly to recreational activities in the bush. His father taught him the valuable skills he needed to take care of himself while he was in the great outdoors – which was very often.
His fascination with survival training led Batt into the Cubs and Boy Scouts as a young lad (and as an adult leader), and as he grew older it was this unwavering interest that lead him to the Colchester County Ground Search and Rescue Squad in his home province of Nova Scotia, which he joined in 1990.
In May 2013, Batt was asked by the Bamfield Community School to attend a cultural field trip with their students to Dianna Island for three days. He was asked to teach students knife use and safety and campfire lighting. Batt quickly saw how lessons like these could not only connect him, a uniformed police officer, with youth, but could start to fill the gap that other school/police programs were leaving.
In 2014 Batt brought his knowledge of the outdoors to the youth in his community with the creation of a mentorship based community program entitled Survival Kids.
“As a teenager I spent a lot of time in the bush, learning about the land and building survival skills, and I found that it helped me build resilience and confidence in all aspects of my life. I want to pass that same experience along to the youth in my community,” said Batt.
This innovative program teaches young people the basic outdoor survival skills by using natural resources as much as is practicable to re-enforce the connection to the land. The lessons are challenging and fun and culminate in activities that build self-worth, confidence, resilience, and, perhaps most importantly, they demonstrate how individuals can control the outcome of many challenging situations they face.
The kids are taught “survival attitude” and it is reinforced at every opportunity in the program.
In one lesson children learn how to properly prepare for an outdoor activity by telling someone where they are going and when they’ll be back, and how to remain in one place should they get lost or disoriented in the woods. The students are taught basic first aid skills that will help them if they or someone they know are injured in the wilderness. They learn how to build shelter, build a camp fire, and how to obtain food and water safely.
Finally, they are taught how to use a knife, axe, and saw in a safe and efficient manner, in the preparation of food, shelters, and fire.
As a member of the Port Alberni First Nations Community Policing Unit, Batt first introduced the pilot for his program in March 2014 on the Tseshaht First Nation. Eleven students ranging in age from eight to 12 years participated and the program was an instant success.
“Our youth have the opportunity to learn new skills such as safe fire building, knife safety, first aid, wilderness survival and much more outdoor themed activities,” said Tyrone Marshall, Tseshaht First Nation sports and recreation co-ordinator.
“Most of all our youth have the opportunity to gain the trust and mutual respect of Cst. Pete Batt. It is my personal belief that it’s better for our youth to meet the local RCMP officers outside of their regular policing roles and duties. This helps to build trust and mutual respect,” Marshall said.
“The skills these young children learned will last a lifetime and I’m certain they will never forget who helped them learn along the way.”
In September of 2014 Batt was recognized for his innovative program at the “E” Division Aboriginal Policing Conference in Chilliwack B.C., receiving the prestigious Award of Distinction for his contributions to the Aboriginal Policing Program. A number of detachments have contacted Batt to consult with them as they try to implement similar mentorship programs.
Batt has plans of introducing this program into the middle schools in School District 70. “This program teaches the common skills our ancestors all had to possess in order to survive long ago, and I hope to ensure that a good segment of our youngsters realize the importance of maintaining these skills in the modern age,” said Batt.
This article was submitted by RCMP Cpl. Jen Allan.