By Lynn Brown
SAULT STE. MARIE, ON—“Many issues affect our communities today,” shared Garden River Chief Paul Syrette in his welcoming remarks to delegates attending the three-day Anishinabek Health Conference 2017 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, from January 24-26, at the Quattro Hotel & Convention Centre.
The annual health conference brings together health care workers from across 40 First Nation communities of the Anishinabek Nation.
“Employment, education, housing, health, food security, and basic amenities are issues of importance,” stated Chief Syrette. “You will be learning skills to take back home to your communities to put strategies in place to address these issues; issues that are of great importance to each of us here today.”
Chief Syrette encouraged delegates to pay special attention to youth.
“Our youth struggle with many issues. Issues of addictions, mental health and suicide,” noted Chief Syrette. “Our communities need to find strategies to help our young people.”
Chief Syrette thanked the delegates for the hard work they do in each of their communities to ensure community health and community healing.
Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee also welcomed the over 150 conference delegates. GCC Madabhee shared with attendees that he took on the Health Portfolio several years ago with The Chiefs of Ontario.
“As I travel around, health issues are the predominant issue that I hear when visiting all of our communities,” he stated. “We have concerns about mental health and the issues that impact our communities as a result of mental health. It can leave us with a helpless feeling sometimes when trying to cope with these issues.”
“With the theme of ‘Good Medicine’, you will have opportunities to network and dialogue with colleagues working in the field of health services,” added GCC Madahbee.
Madahbee shared that he has mixed feelings about the legalization of marijuana.
“Companies have been coming around trying to solicit our First Nation communities to see if they will get into growing legalized marijuana,” noted GCC Madahbee.
Marijuana legalization was one of the topics discussed during the first morning of the three day health conference.
The conference logo, ‘Mino Bmaadzid’, is a beautiful design by artist Darlene (Dolly) Peltier. Peltier is an Anishinaabe Kwe from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory and illustrator for the Wikwemikong Board of Education.
“The ‘Good Health’ logo image is about medicine picking with family and expresses the mind, spirit, emotions, and physical teachings of the medicine wheel,” shared Peltier.
Master of Ceremonies, is Bob Goulais. Goulais is Anishinaabe from Nipissing First Nation. He is an experienced senior executive and consultant with over 20 years of service to industry, not-for-profit and First Nation organizations. Most recently, Bob served as the Vice-President, Communications & Public Affairs for Ishkonigan Consulting and Mediation Inc. From 2004 to 2009, Goulais served as the Chief of Staff for the Grand Council Chief’s of the Anishinabek Nation. Goulais is the founder and Executive Director of Nbisiing Consulting, based out of Nipissing First Nation.