By Tammy Desmoulin
NIPISSING FN – Long Lake #58 First Nation used four powerful words: “One word, one day”. These words have the ability to change a community.
Education Working Group member, Judy Desmoulin presented a video called “Change is Coming” created by the youth, Elders and adults of Long Lake First Nation to participants of the Anishinabek Nation Education Symposium held at Nbisiing Secondary School, Nipissing First Nation on April 23.
The video stemmed from a journey of healing for the community. Judy Desmoulin explained that the video was an idea from the citizens of her community. Long Lake started an Adult Education/Recovery Program with 15 students. On the first anniversary of the program, Judy and her co-workers were shocked to hear of a suicide pact of seven girls. Fortunately, one of the girls in the pact backed out and informed one of the social workers in the community who was able to intervene.
For the community, the suicide pact was shocking. One of the girl’s messages read: “I would rather die now, instead of going the way things are now” and in her mind she thought her parents would soon slip back into the heavy drug use again. Judy and fellow co-workers knew that change was needed.
“What surprised me the most was that six out of seven girls in the suicide pact had parents in the program,” said Judy. “Our biggest mistake was we didn’t bring our kids with us in this recovery process. The children are now learning alongside the adults.”
One of the learning activities the children took part in was emotive writing.
“The process of emotive writing took the youth’s ability to express themselves to another level,” said Judy. “The stories that the youth share in the video are the first hand stories written by the youth of Long Lake. To keep anonymity, the youth read each others stories, but all of it is their bare feelings, hopes and beliefs.”
Throughout the program and through regular counselling of participants, Judy said how participants hit the “deep darker places – the trauma stage”. One of the counsellors knew that the youth needed a way to express themselves to the community, his idea was to create a play and video, and this is how the video “Change is Coming” was born.
“Resilient and courageous, that is what our youth are,” said Judy.
During the filming of “Change is Coming”, Judy and her co-workers noticed signs of a suicide in a young man. The young man’s mother and the social workers intervened and the man explained he wanted to tell his story and complete the video before he got the help he needed. The young man kept his word and once the video was completed he agreed to the help that was offered.
The video documents the emotional, mental and spiritual change in the community through various programs. The video is a collection of writing and expression made by the children of Long Lake. It shows their desire to have routine and security in their lives, turning ordinary things into something useful, the concerns the children have for the environment, the need for change in the school system, and how the children have been taught the signs of suicide and the importance of choosing life.