Posts By: First Nations Drum


By Savannah Walling (hl Gat’saa) and Nadine Spence

Communities across the land are under stress from the collateral damage of intergenerational legacies of displacement and systemic racism, and from mental stress resulting from the pandemic, physical distancing, closure of gathering places and isolation.  

How do we recover from history’s weight?  How do we move towards healing fractured families, communities and environments damaged by generations of horrendous loss? The loss of language, culture, economic independence, and ancestral homelands.  The loss of children and the confidence to protect them. Disappearing salmon, food sources, and food gathering knowledge.  Imposition of institutionalized racism and exclusionary policies.  Pain coping addictions and collective forgetting to avoid passing pain on to future generations. We can’t change what our ancestors 

An Honourary Grandmother Eileen (Albert) Spence and her son Roger Patrick Spence

experienced. We can’t change their actions. We’re living with the historical and cultural legacies.  

Our communities need cultural activity that unpacks history, embraces cultural roots, engages the transformative power of story and song, raises creative voices with stories of resilience and survival with dignity, builds relationships of respect and connects peoples and communities across lands and waters.  

A three-year multi-community multi-generational project is bringing together Indigenous families, tribes and territories of the Fraser and Thompson River watersheds to honour the lives and lived experiences of grandmothers who traveled to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  Many lost connections with families and friends and their grandchildren don’t know their stories.  Family members are working to restore relationships between generations and communities.

This cultural work takes place Nov. 5-7 at Oppenheimer and Strathcona Parks in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, on unceded ancestral homelands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh.

Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey 2021 Launch is produced by Further We Rise Collective/Sacred Rock Society in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre /Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival with three days of ceremony, teachings, storytelling, and art respecting Mother Earth, including a day co-hosted by the 7th Wild Salmon Caravan, the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Vancouver Parks Board.  

The launch of Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey begins with the Nlaka’pamux wildfire fighters (IN-D-SPENCE-ABLE) carrying a travelling message chest from Vancouver’s sidewalks into Oppenheimer Park, to be welcomed by Stephen Lytton and Kat Norris. 

Victor Guerin, Suzette Amaya, and Autumn Walkem will share the Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey history and vision: from art and ceremonies to the journey of travelling message chests. The public can participate by writing messages to their ancestors, Grandmothers, and family and placing them in the message chest to help guide the spirits and memories of their families back home, to be properly respected and laid to rest. 

To recognize and release generational Indigenous traumas

We all survived

Our Youth will gain a better understanding

Together we lighten grief’s burden

For a healthier better future

The journeys of travelling message chests

From the heartbeat of their nations in the high mountains

Through their salmon birth and death places

Alongside their Thomson and Fraser River watersheds

Pause in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Before carrying on to the Pacific Ocean

Then returning to their starting place

To complete the cycle

Grandma, you, and your children may not have been protected, valued, or respected,

So, we are going to do that for you, and all the grandmothers of today

 We will continue loving you, in doing so loving ourselves, 

breaking every cycle every single day.  

We honour you and your children now and forever Grandmothers

Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey aligns and interweaves wiith water and Mother Earth and thus aligns with the work of the Wild Salmon Caravan in their celebration of the spirit of wild salmon. 


a Cedar Planting Ceremony

With a Cedar traveling Message Chest

We honour our Grandmothers

With earth, water, fire and air

Planting new Cedar Trees

To grow Strong

To Represent Indigenous food, medicine and healing

And connect us all for generations to come.

The partners are honoured to support this healing journey that links an inner-city neighbourhood with communities up-river and honours indigenous women, history, language, salmon and ways of life.

To participate in future projects

Further We Rise Collective is supported by Sacred Rock Society, whose founding was inspired by the Nlaka’pamux community of Spence’s Bridge, BC, with the vision of connecting indigenous arts, cultural heritage, language, with health, education, and the natural environment.

Further We Rise/Sacred Rock Society are inviting Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, grassroots organizations, businesses, and communities to participate and support the future journey of these honour chests for the next three years.

If you would like to help, contact

UNDER THE NORTHERN SKY – Hope, Justice And Healing

by Xavier Kataquapit

Finally Indigenous people all across Canada can feel some hope that Canadians and our governments are taking reconciliation seriously. The history and the proof of what colonization has done to my people all across this country has come to light and there can be no more ignoring the facts of so many horrific acts aimed at getting rid of the original inhabitants of this land. The time has come to deal with it all: the recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves on former residential school sites, the realities of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, the 60s scoop, residential school abuse history, ongoing systematic racism, failure to honour treaties and the deliberate impoverishment economically and spiritually of Native peoples.

    The National Day For Truth and Reconciliation which has been set aside as a federal statutory holiday by the federal government is a step in the right direction. The legislation to do this was unanimously supported by government in June of 2021. This day would never have happened if not for survivors like my own mother Susan and my father Marius and many, many other survivors who attested to the many wrongs and abuses aimed at assimilating Indigenous peoples and at the worst “getting rid of the Indian problem”.

    The declaration of this special day came out of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which created 94 calls to action in their final recommendation. The 80th call to action was aimed at the Canadian government along with Indigenous leaders to create a new statutory holiday in honour of the survivors and families of the residential school reality. Happily this has been done but there is a lot more work to do. Most of the remaining 93 calls to action have yet to be met. We still have a long way to go but getting clean drinking water in Indigenous communities and settling treaties would be a good move forward as soon as possible.

    For now we have a day where we can all reflect and discover just what colonization did to Indigenous people in this country. We can thank people like my late parents and thousands of other residential school survivors for sharing their tragic stories. 

    Truth and Reconciliation Day was born from Orange Shirt day which in turn originally came from the sharing of stories by survivors. In 2013 at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project in Williams Lake British Columbia, survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad shared her residential school story. As a child she was taken from her parents and sent to residential school where she had her new orange shirt removed and never returned. Her little orange shirt had been a present from her grandmother. The memory and image of her childhood orange shirt became a symbol of the terrible history of the residential school era. The date of September 30 was selected as the original Orange Shirt Day because this was the time of year that Indigenous children across the country were forcibly taken from their families to attend residential schools. 

    Alberta, Quebec and Ontario will not recognize the holiday as statutory but the remaining provinces and territories are acknowledging the new holiday but at varying levels of acceptance. The reactions of provincial governments range from Nova Scotia giving recognition to the holiday to that of Saskatchewan which will not officially acknowledge it but instead see its major cities identify the new holiday. The mixed reactions shows that the country is still very much divided in how or if to acknowledge the darker parts of the nation’s history. 

    The fact is that there has been some progress in terms of reconciliation but indifference, racism and ignorance is till alive and well in Canada when it comes to Indigenous peoples. Let’s hope that we keep moving forward in good faith to honour the remaining 93 calls to action. 

    A wonderful start would be for all Canadians to take a little time on September 30 to discover what those calls to action are and why and how they came about. This trail is long and full of challenges but it is also one of hope, justice and healing.

Choose Peace Not War

by Xavier Kataquapit

In the summer of 1918, two of my grandfathers were taken from my family and sent off to a war they did not understand or wanted to be part of. My grandfather James Kataquapit was one of the lucky ones who went overseas and came back. My great grandfather John Chookomolin succumbed to the Spanish flu during this period and he died and was buried just outside the city of London, England in the United Kingdom. 

    They were taken from their homelands on the James Bay coast with 20  other young men in their prime to take part in this war. The survivors who came back like my grandfather James explained that they had been told that they had to take part in order to help a ‘Kitchi-Okimaw’, a King that represented their land and country. These were young men who had only ever known life in the wilderness and spoke only their traditional Cree language. They had only ever understood the world that our people had known for thousands of years. 

    They left Attawapiskat in the summer of 1918 and paddled south to the Albany River to access the railway network that had recently been built. From there, they moved further south where they joined thousands of other young men in army camps to be readied for war. It must have been a great shock to them to see all the new technology, the trains, the transportation networks, the cities, the towns and the great masses of people that were changing the landscape everywhere. After a few short months of training and teaching, they were moved further away to the east to access the ocean and from there they were boarded onto ships to make the journey to Europe. 

    My grandfather James recounted the story often to my family about that experience. At one point they just followed orders and directions because they couldn’t say or do otherwise. They felt trapped and unable to avoid their circumstances. In any other situation, it would be called kidnapping and abduction and being forced to do the will of others without your consent. When they boarded their ships and went out onto the Atlantic and moved away from the coast, they believed that they were lost forever and would never return home again. 

    In the sadness of that crossing, many of them contracted a new disease that was spreading across the globe. They ended up with the Spanish Flu and my grandfather John was reported to be deathly ill by the time they arrived in Liverpool. John was sent to a field hospital where he lingered for over a week and succumbed to his sickness alone and separated from everyone he knew. Later he was buried at a small cemetery next to a village called Englefield Green, just outside the great city of London. I have knelt at his grave in that place among the rows of headstones.

    My other grandfather James and the rest of his group became part of the Canadian Forestry Corp that were tasked as manual labourers to manufacture lumber and building material for the war effort. Although much of their time was devoted to forestry and lumber, they did see glimpses of the destruction of war when they were assigned to guard duties and other work in cities and towns in northern France that were affected by the fighting. 

    My grandfather was somewhat content with his situation as he was promised that he would be paid and compensated for his time and labour. He understood that he was being paid and he agreed that any money he made would be sent back to his family on the James Bay coast. When he returned back to Canada, it was another shock to discover that he would receive little to no reward or recognition for the time he spent in a war he never agreed to. 

    After being forced away from his homeland and taken overseas, he was simply dropped off at war’s end in a northern rail town in northern Ontario and told to return home on his own. He had to make the two to three week long trip north again on his own along the river system to return to his family. When he arrived, he was greeted with the news that his family had received little to no money from either the church or the Hudson Bay store that handled all communications and payments for the soldiers who left. Again there was little to nothing he could do about it and he and the other veterans of that war returned to their lives as if nothing had ever taken place but of course they were changed forever. 

    In the case of my great-grandfather John Chookomolin, he had left his wife Maggie and their new three month old daughter in the hopes that he would return. Maggie managed on her own for a while but then died unexpectedly a few years later leaving their daughter an orphan during a time when everyone was doing their best to just merely survive. Back then being an orphan with no family that could help meant certain death. The daughter was my grandmother Louise Paulmartin and she was taken in by a church orphanage in Fort Albany who raised her and placed her into an arranged marriage when she was 16. The family never knew what happened to my great-grandfather John until the 1980s when a family member did some research.

    We always look at the surface of war as the battle between good and evil, the fight between the forces of freedom and authoritarianism. Both sides use the same language to their people to justify the fighting. In reality it is only those with the greatest wealth who stand to win in any war and those with no wealth to do the losing, the fighting and the dying. Those who cry out for war are usually the first to point their finger at others to do the fighting. 

    Every year we pass around the phrase Lest We Forget in homage to those who fought and died for a war. Yet we are too quick to forget the reasons why those wars were fought in the first place and we fail to remember who benefited and who lost the most from those conflicts. War is a nasty business and always has been about resources, wealth and power while pretending to be for the cause of freedom and helping others. The only people to gain from war are the very wealthy and of course the multi-billion dollar armament and war industry. Yes, Lest We Forget is a strong reminder to remember that war is no way to advance civilization and these days with nuclear weapons in abundance, conflict poses the risk to end life on this planet. 

    We should take time to remember those veterans like my grandfathers who took part in a war but we should do their memory justice by also remembering why they fought, what they fought for and what was left for them.


The Many Guns Family including Jeannette Many Guns Centre

The recent grand opening of the new Many Guns Boxing and Fitness Centre on the Siksika First Nation marks the start of a journey toward a long- term goal of healing, connecting bodies and spirits, and promoting physical wellness.

After delays and the pandemic crises the opening of the Boxing and Fitness centre is a welcome relief for members of the Siksika Nation, just an hour southeast of Calgary.

Dr. Quintina Bearchief-Adolpho, mental health clinical team lead for Siksika Health Services, told the Calgary
Herald News that the facility will serve many purposes for the community, not the least of which is physical activity to promote positive mental health.

Clifford Many Gun

“Because of trauma, we have a lot of addictions in our community (and) we were trying to think of ways that would help our community in the long term,” she said. “There’s a lot of research around exercise and how it impacts mental health and how it impacts it positively.”

Bearchief-Adolpho said boxing in particular presents participants with an opportunity to “connect mind and heart.”

“This would allow a person to be able to understand their emotions, be able to express their emotions,” she said.

“They’re able to have cognitive flexibility, their executive functioning would increase and they’d be able to resolve issues that they might have been deal- ing with for a long time.”

In addition to dealing with the isolation of COVID-19 over the past year and a half, community members are also having to face the recent discov- eries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the coun- try, as well as the ongoing intergenerational trauma caused by that school system.

“We’re hoping people will be able to utilize the gym as an outlet to provide more of a healthy kind of intervention, versus self medicating,” she said. “We hope that this will help individuals be able to overcome some of their challenges that they’re facing with issues stemming from COVID and every- thing surrounding the (residential school) issues.”

Bearchief-Adolpho also wanted to name the centre after the late Clifford Many Guns because of how he helped the youth of the reserve and was the leading force for the boxing on the Siksika Nation for many decades
The centre’s therapeutic physical trainer, Manny Yellow Fly, said the gym’s namesake, the late Clifford Many Guns, will serve as an inspiration for staff and clients.

Yellow Fly said although Clifford was a guy who influenced boxing and promoted it, he was also a guy that played pretty much every sport.

“He coached a lot of sports and brought a lot of good values to the commu- nity and I hope to use Many Guns’ mentality especially to have a positive effect on the Nation’s youth,” Yellow Fly added, “I can incorporate the boxing mentality, the val- ues and characteristics that come with boxing, like perseverance, (positive) attitudes, hard work . . . and kind of blend them together.”

In addition to camps and other programming specifically for youth there will also be opportu- nities for elders to take part in various activities. Yoga, CrossFit and other fitness classes will be incorporated into the centre in the future.

Jeannette Many Guns, the youngest daughter of Clifford said, “It’s the right time by naming the sports and fitness centre after her father.

“We the Many Guns family are all very proud, honoured, and very thankful to have the boxing and fitness centre named after our Dad. It is with great comfort to know that his legacy will continue,” said Many Guns. “My dad would have continued training boxers from the reserve, he wanted the best to succeed. There are a lot of gifted athletes on the reserve that can be world champions.”

Many Guns said she was glad to see a good turn out at the grand opening

“It is a part of his legacy he would want to continue. He saw that fitness and health was important and that it can continue through this new centre. My Dad had many talents and through his “Go to attitude” to get things done will continue on through the art of boxing.”

With the official opening of the centre, Bearchief-Adolpho said opportuni- ties for healing and for community members to get a better handle on their health, both mental and physical, are plentiful.

“If we can heal the physical self then we’re able to discover the underlying issues, mental-health issues that are occurring . . . I have a lot of hope that this can have a positive impact in our community.”


Take Back Your Life

            When was the last time you went offline and spent time away from the internet and social media? How often do you find yourself checking to see what is happening online during your day?

            When I am at home in town with a high speed internet connection that has endless data to stream, I am constantly online. I read news articles, watch Youtube videos, read internet forums, then jump over to social media feeds. That is only the start of my internet addiction. I watch video streaming services on my TV and on my phone I use various apps throughout the day. I stream my music to listen anywhere I go. Sometimes I’ll find myself doing multiple things on the internet. I’ll watch a streaming program on my big screen, while scrolling through news stories on my laptop and following social media on my phone.

            As exciting as I find all this activity and information, often I feel a sense of anxiousness and nervousness about it all. When I am online, I feel like I am connecting to people and that feels exciting. Unfortunately, much of the time, I fall into a rabbit hole that is filled with fear, anger and anxiety. There are many studies that point to the fact that much of social media is a contrived world of fake users and automated content that is meant to reaffirm our worst fears and deepen our sense of anger in the world. These two emotions hit us hard and they are what drive us to look longer, respond often and keep a watchful eye for more content. It is in the best interest of all social media to keep us angry and afraid of the world. The more negative we feel about everything, the more active we are online to share those emotions with others and increase the popularity of these platforms. Advertising is attracted to where the action is, so social media loves to generate content that gets people involved as that is how they make their money.

            To take a break from this endless digital experience, I spent the past week at my remote cottage where I am located just outside the edge of any cell phone signal. I have some options to gain a signal but it is difficult and unreliable. I only use the internet when I absolutely have to, for the most basic tasks, using as little data as possible. I’ve stopped streaming video, I’ve stopped listening to music and I’ve stopped tapping into social media to see what everyone is doing.

            For the first day or two, I felt a sense of withdrawal from the world. I constantly felt uneasy at the idea of not being able to go online for anything. Instead, I was forced to just read the books I had with me, talk to my partner in the dim light of the living room, listen to the birds and animals or just stare at the lake, the trees and the endless sky.

            After a week I started remembering what the world felt like before the internet. I could just sit alone quietly, at peace and think for myself. I had time to finish the dozens of little projects around the house. I felt my day expand and grow longer as I now had moments to just rest and sit in the sun, take a walk in the forest or cut brush on my land. I was no longer hounded by the endless digital voices that simultaneously make me feel happy, afraid, humored and angry all at the same time. I also had time to work on a book.

            It was great to get back to a life that I once had a couple of decades ago when my days were filled with action, exercise, outside work and actually talking with others in real time.  I have never been the type to be bored but I have to admit that this addiction to the internet and social media has cost me my health, mindfulness and a general satisfaction with life on a daily basis.

            Perhaps we should take time away from the internet once in a while. Try it for yourself for a day or two. Do you remember the last time you had a day to yourself, with just your thoughts and the contact of the people around you? As humans, we survived thousands of years without a constant connection to everything. I think we are all capable of disconnecting from the world of the internet and social media once in a while to reconnect with ourselves. Otherwise many of us are going to end up overweight, out of shape, anxious and depressed.  It’s time to take back your life.

A national skills agenda for Indigenous youth will lead to a more prosperous and inclusive Canada

John Stackhouse

There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the economic prospects of Indigenous youth. Canada’s fastest growing cohort of youth are being drawn into the broader economy, demonstrated through increased Indigenous ownership of resources and infrastructure, increased presence in key supply chains and new partnerships between private companies and communities. Many Indigenous youth are also confident in their foundational skills essential to succeed in the workplace, such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration. 

However, at a time when advance technologies are transforming every sector, many Indigenous youth say they lack the confidence in their digital literacy skills. Addressing the gap starts with the basics. The reality is, high-speed Internet still hasn’t come to large parts of rural and northern Canada, limiting online activity for many Indigenous Peoples.

These digital desserts limit many Indigenous Peoples from developing key skills required to succeed in the workplace. Take trade skills, which has contributed to improved incomes for many Indigenous Peoples. But on-reserve learners aren’t accessing apprenticeships at the same rate as off-reserve youth, and they often miss out on the in-class portions where emerging skills are introduced.

Narrowing this and other digital skills gaps would enable Indigenous youth to unlock a host of opportunities in the future of work and, in turn, significantly increase their earning potential according to a RBC report. Access to a meaningful career also helps foster a stronger connection to community, and builds greater confidence and optimism for the future. A national skills agenda for Indigenous youth is crucial to building a more prosperous and inclusive Canada.

What would this agenda look like? Through an 18-month consultation with Indigenous youth and leaders, educators, and employers, RBC identified a series of recommendations that might help to prepare Indigenous youth for the digital future. Fulfilling the federal commitment to provide high-speed to every Canadian by 2030, prioritizing underserviced Indigenous communities was a key priority.

Allocating additional funding for digital devices and technology courses in primary and secondary schools, both on- and off-reserve, would also be critical. As would efforts in providing Indigenous youth with more work-integrated learning experiences. These programs offer students access to real workplace experiences, with the opportunity to develop the technological and human skills necessary to succeed as well as the professional networks, which are vital in navigating the working world.

At a time when many Canadians are reflecting on our recent history, and ongoing relationship with Indigenous Peoples, our collective efforts take on a heightened meaning and importance. A national skills agenda will ensure our fastest growing youth population are provided with the skills and opportunities to participate fully in the economy, and in turn, help Canada grow sustainably well into the future.

PRESS RELEASE: Fire Safety Knowledge Can Save Lives

Did you know that the incidents of fire are 10 times higher within Indigenous  communities versus other Canadian communities? 

This statistic comes from the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council Project and highlights the ongoing threat to homes and families. Their website is designed to offer support to Indigenous communities. It has reported that Indigenous peoples across Canada are between 5 and 17 times more likely to die in a fire compared to the rest of the population. Indigenous Peoples are five times more likely to die in a fire. That number increases to over 10 times for First Nations people living on reserves. Inuit are over 17 times more likely to die in a fire than non Indigenous people. Rates among Métis were higher than non-Indigenous estimates (2.1), but these rates were not significantly different. The full report can be found at morbidity-report-2021.

At FireWise we believe that knowledge saves lives. Knowing how to prevent a fire can make the difference between lives saved or lost. At times it can be as simple as knowing that an unattended pot on a stove can readily turn into a kitchen fire. Flammable objects near a baseboard or electric heater or a fireplace can cause pyrolysis which is the decomposition of a combustible object brought on by high temperatures. Further course information

As a Benefit Corporation for Good, FireWise places equal importance on people as it does the planet and profit. For this reason, FireWise offers affordable rates for communities at risk. We recognize some of the challenges of fire safety in Indigenous communities. Through our online training programs, we are able to offer a Building Fire Safety Training Program that is structured in the hopes of reducing fire related incidents. This course has been designed to give community leaders the confidence to know what to look for when assessing building fire safety risk and the skills to teach the community about valuable fire safety and prevention. BCFG program details at

Another excellent resource is Getting to Know Fire produced by British Columbia’s Public Fire and Life Safety Education Curriculum. This publication is a comprehensive fire and life safety education curriculum containing detailed lesson plans, which target audiences ranging from preschool aged children through to seniors. Thecurriculum provides accurate and consistent messages and all support materials necessary to deliver interesting and informative presentations. It is unique in its comprehensiveness and focusses on the needs of front-line fire service personnel delivering fire and life safety education. It is available through the Crown Publications at

Five Reasons to Learn About Fire Safety and Prevention 1. Fire prevention is inexpensive and saves lives and property. 2. Routine fire prevention assessments ensure a high level of building and occupant safety. 3. Building managers learn how fire protection systems are designed to detect and quickly extinguish a fire. 4. Direct involvement of the building manager in fire prevention yields other life safety and maintenance benefits. 5. Regular safety code inspections provide occupants with fire safety education and demonstrates a commitment to safety, building trust in the community.

About FireWise Consulting FireWise Consulting was co-founded by Glen Sanders and Bob Turley who had a desire to share their expertise with the fire community. Their knowledge in the fire service has informed the online fire inspection and investigation training and practicums that today teach communities, building owners, and firefighters on how to assess and address fire. In 2018, retired Fire Chief, Ernie Polsom joined as a director and primarily consults with emergency services, local governments and communities.

FireWise is recognized for its complimentary skill sets informed by over 120-years of combined knowledge. Their wealth of real-world experience is evident in its curriculum, workshops and consulting.

FireWise is a value-driven and Benefit Corporation for Good (BCFG) company committed to delivering quality information over profits to ensure that those in the fire service and their governing authorities receive the knowledge and support needed to help them provide a high level of fire protection in their communities or business. It has been certified by a third party to affirm that it qualifies. In addition to profit, the BCFG includes a positive impact on society, workers, and the environment as its legally defined goals.

We believe in and adhere to business practices that are socially, economically and environmentally sound which result in solutions that are responsible to people and the planet.

We believe in people and approach all issues in a transparent, non-partisan manner that fosters an open and respectful dialogue. We do our best to treat all stakeholders fairly, while recognizing the socio-demographics found within communities i.e., age, gender, ethnicity, education levels, income, etc.

We build individual, community, and regional capacity that supports informed decision-making processes.

We create safer communities by sourcing environmentally safe materials and processes (The use of technology to reduce travel and harmful environmental practices like burning buildings to conduct fire investigation courses.)

We believe and practice the sharing of knowledge the delivers fire prevention and awareness which saves lives, protects people and property, and protects the environment.

We support community organizations that help people like Muscular Dystrophy, Honour House, Honour Ranch and more. We believe in self-care by striving for a proper work-life balance.

We believe in mental wellness and facilitate a confidential and non-judgmental peer forum with fire service leaders that help them to share their journey.

For more information regarding this coaching Glen Sanders, 1.250.812.9830

For more information training Bob Turley, 1.877.322.7911

For more information on consulting services Ernie Polsom, 1.306.580.7104

We Know How To Manage This Pandemic

This has been a worrisome month. After a year and a half of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, like everyone else I was hoping that things would be getting more back to normal after our world more or less was shut down. In many countries in the world the numbers of deaths and cases have been dropping and just when things were looking good for us here in northern Ontario, the Porcupine Health Unit area had increased cases and in particular my home of Attawapiskat, the remote communities of Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moosonee and Moose Factory on the James Bay coast all had outbreaks.

We have been fortunate in northern Ontario that our infection numbers have been low until just recently. Most of this has been due to the fact that we are more remote and rural so that protects us to a degree. However, with people moving about, air travel and work places deemed essential still operating this virus took hold. There were not many deaths or severe cases of sickness along the James Bay coast and in other Indigenous communities across Canada because these First Nations had been prioritized for vaccinations. Many people don’t realize that the vaccines won’t stop you from getting the virus but it will in most cases lower the cases of severe disease and deaths. That is why it is necessary to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. Can you imagine the disaster this virus would have created in sickness and death in remote James Bay communities without vaccines?

As vaccines continue to roll out in Canada we are seeing a decrease in cases and deaths in general. However, things are starting to open up now and there is a fear that we might not be out of the woods with this virus for some time. There are new variants like the Delta Variant that is challenging the vaccines and the experts say there will be more more variants developing. This means we will probably need booster vaccine shots at some point to deal with new variants.

It looks like vaccines will most likely not be able to solve this pandemic globally but they will help us manage it in countries and regions. First world countries that have the most vaccinations will probably manage well in opening up to some form of normal over the next year or so but many parts of the world will not be able to do that. That means we won’t really be safe from this virus because people will move about internationally and this Covid-19 will continue to spread as newly developed variants.

The bottom line is that we are living in a new world. We have learned so much about viruses and disease in general over the past year and a half and that has kept many of us safe. Many people have had to keep working in close quarters in plants, mines, production and distribution centres and essential services. Our governments and public health units have developed many ways to deal with this virus. We now know our best protection has been with the wearing of masks indoors in public places, staying two meters apart from others and washing hands often.

As things open up and new variants arrive we still need to remember that, yes we can have more freedom, we can get together safely and we can even begin to travel again. However, we also have to remember all the things we learned to cope with this virus and the new way we see and understand disease and how it spreads.

Vaccines have been proven to work and although they might not solve this pandemic on a global basis, they will allow us to manage life in many parts of the world. I am very thankful to the Indigenous leadership at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Chiefs of Ontario (COO), Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), our tribal councils and Indigenous political bodies across Canada for doing such a great job to lobby the governments so that our communities were prioritized for vaccines. Right now I can point to the success of that advocacy in the outbreaks that were safely managed on the James Bay coast. Thanks also to the federal government, provincial governments, public health units and all those doctors, nurses, paramedics, personal support workers, teachers, as well as all essential workers for risking their well being to keep us all safe and for propping up our economy. Things are looking better every day and we will manage this nasty Covid-19 virus. We all have to remember what we learned over the past year and a half to stay safe.

Time for a Change – First Nation Women Taking Leading Roles in Indigenous Affairs and Canadian National Politics

Indigenous Woman making History this month:
Mary Simon for her appointment to Governor General of Canada | Photo courtesy Aljazeera

Chief RoseAnne Archibald, elected Chief of the Assembly of First Nations | Photo courtesy CTV

Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky Deer elected Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake | Photo courtesy APTN

Though Women’s History Month is not until October, three First Nation women made history on three different political fronts in July.

On July 3, Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer became the first female and the first LGBTQ2S+ Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. On July 6, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Mary Simon as Canada’s Governor General. Two days later, on July 8, RoseAnne Archibald was elected as Grand Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer

For the 12 years prior to her election to a four-year term as Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK), Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, 41, served as a council chief on the Kahnawake Band Council.

Describing the experience as “overwhelming,” Sky-Deer says her priorities are developing an economic strategy that honours treaties to share land and resources and to focus on healing.

“That is what is owed to us,” said Sky-Deer, about her plans for an economic strategy that includes building affordable housing and attracting well-paying jobs to the MCK community of about 8,000 people located outside Montreal.

Sky-Deer said that the trauma, sadness, and grieving over the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools are to be addressed by empowering people through community-oriented actions to enhance language and strengthen cultural identity.

“We could start to do activities in our culture, spiritually, ceremonially, to lift the spirits of our people in our minds so that we can be ready for the work in the challenges ahead,” she said.

Many of today’s social challenges are a direct result of the tragedy of the residential-school system, and Sky-Deer, who believes the greatest way to honour the memory of Indigenous children who died there is to build a better today for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Married with five step-children and two grandchildren, Sky-Deer said her identity as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ and being elected as Grand Chief is a “sign of the times.”

“We need to own who we are. I want to be a positive influence and role model, an inspiration to youth who feel that they are different. I want them to know that they are worthy, can achieve dreams, goals. And that LGBTQ2S+ is not a barrier. The Creator put us here with gifts.”

Sky-Deer continued, “It’s about looking at the person and character, the strengths, the abilities, and what they can do for the community. Does it really matter who they are attracted to or in a relationship with at the end of the day? Live and let live, and let people be who they are.”

Grand Chief, Sky-Deer does not intend to rule from the top but instead receive community input through think tanks staffed by common members of her band. “I think hearing from the people directly, empowering them to be a part of the solution, can help,” she said. “My people want to see more engagement, empowerment, ability to be part of the decision-making. All of these things are elements of our traditional way of governance.”

Sky-Deer won the post of Grand Chief with 573 votes. In second place was another female, Gina Deer, with 368 votes, MCK had been without a Grand Chief since Joseph Tokwiro Norton passed away last summer.

A Florida, USA, resident for eight years in the early 2000s, Sky-Dear played quarterback as a professional football player for the Daytona Beach Barracudas of the Women’s Professional Football League.

While in the States, she earned a Bachelor degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“There’s a new age upon us. I feel there’s a turning point in the history of humanity,” she said. “Women in leadership are actually becoming a norm across North America, what we call Turtle Island. It’s just part of the evolution.”

Mary Simon

In another first, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Inuk leader Mary Simon as Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General. Simon, who is from Nunavik, in northern Quebec, is Canada’s 30th Governor General,

Her new role is not the first first for Simon, who previously served as the first Inuk to be a Canadian ambassador when she represented Canada as its ambassador of circumpolar affairs and ambassador to Denmark.

The governor general position is also known as the Viceregal representative of the Monarch – the Queen of Great Britain’s representative in Canada.

Under law, the governor general is the second-highest ranking federal position in Canada, outranking the prime minister. Second-in-command after the Queen, Simon is the Queen’s representative in Canada.

“I believe we can build the hopeful future in a way that is respectful of what has happened in the past. If we embrace our common humanity and shared responsibility for one another, Canada’s greatest days are yet to come,” Simon said.

The power to dissolve Parliament and draw up the writs for a general election, on the advice of the prime minister, is now in Simon’s hands. She is also now the top commander of the Canadian Armed Forces.

“Today after 154 years, our country takes a historic step,” said Mr. Trudeau while announcing the appointment at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. “I cannot think of a better person to meet the moment.”

Simon, a product of a federal government day school, wants to facilitate a better relationship between Canadians and Indigenous people and promised to play a significant role in getting Canadians to acknowledge their nation’s sins in its historical mistreatment and abuse of First Nations people.

“I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward,” said Simon at the press conference announcing her appointment. “We need to stop to fully recognize and memorialize and come to terms with the atrocities of our collective past that we are learning more about each day,”

Born in Nunavik in northern Quebec to an Inuk mother and a non-Indigenous father, Simon reminded the nation that she has deep Indigenous roots when she told how she spent a lot of time as a child living a traditional Inuk lifestyle that included camping, living on the land, hunting, fishing, and gathering food.

“[I will] be a bridge between the different lived realities that together make up the tapestry of Canada,” said Simon.

After her job as a CBC broadcaster in the 1970s, Simon went on to hold many leadership positions in Indigenous organizations.

In 1975, Simon played a role in brokering a landmark land claim settlement between the Cree and Inuit community with the Quebec government, and also served as president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, an organization championing Inuit rights.

In 1982, she participated in the negotiations that led to the change in the Canadian Constitution that formally enshrined Aboriginal and treaty rights in the supreme law of Canada.

As Ambassador to Circumpolar Affairs In 1994, Simon defended Canadian interests in its Arctic territory, which at the time was called home by over 200,000 inhabitants, half of that population being Indigenous.

“I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation,” said Simon.

RoseAnne Archibald

RoseAnne Archibald has a remarkable history of breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling. A trailblazer, RoseAnne was the first Indigenous woman to serve as Chief for the Taykwa Tagamou Nation, Deputy Grand Chief for Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, Grand Chief for Mushkegowuk Council, and Ontario Regional Chief.

Now she has become the first woman to be elected as National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). She defeated Muskowekwan First Nation Chief Reginald Bellerose with 50.5 percent of the vote in the fifth round of voting.

“The AFN has made her-story today,” said RoseAnne after her historic win.

Her main priorities in her new role will be fighting systemic racism, supporting the national action plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women, and addressing unmarked burial sites at former residential schools by working with the federal government to implement the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“With the recent discovery and recovery of our little ones across this country, we are all awake — and what people need to understand and what people need to come to terms with is how settler Canadians have benefited from these colonial practices and how we, as Indigenous people, have been the target of genocide,” she said. “We are going to stare this straight in the face and kick colonial policies to the curb. Change is happening.”

Prioritizing the effects of climate change on Indigenous communities and working with governments and regional chiefs on a post-pandemic recovery plan for First Nations are two additional issues RoseAnne plans to focus on.

During her campaign, she promised to promote a national agenda to make economic self-sufficiency for First Nations a reality and instituting a new AFN 2SLGBTQQIA+ Council.

“While there are things and differences that divide us, there is much that we share,” she said. “We all want our children to grow up proud and surrounded by love, culture, ceremony, and language, and safe and vibrant communities. We want a Mother Earth for them that is not threatened by wildfires and climate change…. We want to be good ancestors and leave a strong legacy for the seven generations ahead.”

RoseAnne is from the Taykwa Tagamou Nation in Northeastern Ontario, and has been participating in First Nations politics for 31 years. Elected to represent her home nation at 23 years old, she was also the youngest deputy Grand Chief for Nishnawbe-Aski Nation in Ontario.

“This is a critical time for Canada and we need our women to represent us in a traditional matriarchal manner to address the many injustices,” Archibald wrote in a Facebook post.

AFN represents 900,000 members across 634 First Nations. Its mission is to coordinate action between First Nations for their collective benefit.