Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee; JoAnne Michano of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg; Heroes in Health Award recipients Erica Perkins of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and John Mattson of Alderville First Nation; and Nora Sawyer of Alderville First Nation. Missing: Pamela Johnston from Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, recipient of Heroes in Health Award.

By Lynne Brown

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON—Anishinabek Health Conference 2017, Master of Ceremonies, Bob Goulais spoke to delegates during the break on the first of the three-day conference held in Sault Ste. Marie (Jan 24-26), to share the names of three recipients for the annual Heroes in Health Award.

“These recipients help their communities to enjoy healthier lives by raising awareness of healthy lifestyles choices, as well as sharing health messages,” stated Goulais. “They work to remove barriers by creating supporting networks and environments that promote access to health services. Heroes in Health are also Influencing and shaping local services and local participation in communities.”

The presentation of Heroes in Health Awards was made by Grand Council Chief, Patrick Madahbee.

“We have three very worthy recipients here today,” noted Grand Chief.

Grand Chief Madahbee went on to introduce Pamela Johnston, John Mattson, and Erica Perkins as the 2017 Heroes in Health Award recipients.

“All of you folks working in the front lines are heroes. For today, we honour three Heroes in Health, but really, there are 150 or so heroes right here in this room.”

John Mattson was nominated by Nora Sawyer and the Alderville Health Team.

‘John is the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program Coordinator. He has worked for Alderville for over 12 years in the capacity of student support, water program, and cultural coordinator before taking on his position with NNADAP in 2008. John is a graduate of the Community & Social Service Worker Diploma Program (2003). John incorporates his love of culture and teachings into his work and personal life, sharing knowledge with youth, especially weekly drumming sessions. John is a Firekeeper, and is appreciated by women in the community for his kindness of providing support for Full Moon Ceremonies. John fulfills the ultimate goal of the Alderville Health Team in providing quality health care for the community through empowering individuals to become more active, healthy, and improve their mental well-being.’

Erica Perkins was nominated by JoAnne Michano, Band Manager, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg.

‘Erica is Health and Social Services Director for Biigtigong Nishnaabeg. Her belief of empowerment provides the clients with opportunities to take responsibility for their lives and is one of the core pillars in her approach to providing effective health care. She and her team ensure that Nishnaabe culture and values provide the foundation of everything they do. As a long-term strategic thinker, Erica made it a priority to increase her understanding of the complexities of the historical and multi-generational impacts of colonialism. Erica adopts a client-centered philosophy, fostered by a holistic approach, grounded in exceptional standards. Erica is a strong believer in establishing partnerships. Under her leadership, we have successfully increased the quality of health and have celebrated many accomplishments in this field. These accomplishments would not have been possible without the continuous support from Erica.’

Pamela Johnston was nominated by Monica McLean, Administrative Assistant, Mississaugas of Scugog Island Health and Resource Centre.

‘Pamela is persistent with reminding us of the need to forgive and to understand those who have not necessarily been on the right path. She reminds us that everyone has a right to feel connected, respected, and to be part of a community. Pamela spent 15 years working in the urban Aboriginal community, through outreach and front line work. She has worked in the field of mental health and addictions for many years, bringing great ideas and solutions to the community. Pamela has personally experienced the effects of trauma in her family and has a thorough knowledge and understanding of mental health and addiction issues. Erica is adept at navigating the health care system, and advocating for clients in order to get them the help they require.’

Pamela Johnston was not present at the time of the Hero in Health awards ceremony to accept her award.

MC Bob Goulais spoke with delegates about the importance of taking time to honour the traditions of eating together, to slowing down, and making good food a more intentional ingredient to a healthy lifestyle.

“How can we make a difference in the food that we eat and prepare for our families?” stated Goulais. “We need to talk about those things; plan for those things.”

Goulais spoke about Quattro Farms, and the ‘Farm to Table’ practice as part of the philosophy of the Quattro Hotel & Convention Centre.

“Quattro Farms is integral to the food that we eat here today, and is located near Thessalon, Ontario,” noted Goulais. “The way they do things here is one of the reasons why our communities come back year after year.”