By Lynne Brown
SAULT STE. MARIE –The third annual Anishinabek Health conference took place at The Quattro Hotel and Convention Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, January 23 – 25.
The theme for the conference – “Nkweshkodaadidaa bezhgonang wii-nendming miinwaa wii-ngode’eying – Let’s meet to make our thoughts and hearts one”, guided the planning and conference itinerary.
Community Heroes in Health build capacity within First Nations territory by empowering residents to become more active, healthy and improve the overall well-being of the community. Each year, three are recognized at the annual conference held in mid January for outstanding leadership, mentorship and best practices in each of their respective community health programmes.
Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee acknowledged everyone in attendance at the Anishinabek Health Conference, as well as those who could not be present, as heroes in health in their respective communities.
The three recipients for 2018 are, Nora Sawyer, Marcie Simpson and Carol Couchie.
Nora Sawyers career has taken her all over the Anishinabek Nation for over 30 years. It was fitting that she would be recognized for her work at the 2018 AN Health Conference, as she announced her upcoming retirement.
As the first Bill C-31 female Chief in Alderville First Nation & Canada, Nora Sawyer became a strong advocate for her people & Anishnaabe Nations. Sayers career included the role of Executive Director at the Union of Ontario Indians where she worked alongside Chiefs, provincial and federal politicians.
Sawyers moved on as the Health Director for over 20 years for Rama First Nation where she was instrumental in leading a multi faceted health centre as well as a position on the local hospital board.
Sayers is a grandmother to four grandchildren who has strived to follow a traditional grandmother role. She is known as Googoo (grandmother in Cree) to many.
In 2015, Sawyers moved back to where she is currently the Manager of Health Services. She continues to sit on the Southeast Area Health Board, Board member of Highland Shores CAS, & Dnaagdewemaag Child & Family Services and on the Anishinabek Nations Woman’s Council.
“She is a strong caring and genuine leader and advocate. She carries a pleasant nurturing disposition and is much appreciated. She will be missed by her peers and staff and citizens as this year she will be looking at retirement.” stated staff members.
“She has always carried a strong passion for the members of her community’s physical, emotional, mental & spiritual wellness.”
Carol Couchie, B.Sc.,RM, (K’Tigaaning Midwives), was unable to attend the awards presentation. It’s entirely possible that she was delivery a baby.
Recognized for her work in the area of midwifery, Couchie graduated midwifery school from Ryerson University in 1998. She is a Member at Large on the Association of Ontario Midwives Board, and her particular interest is to support and advance the Board’s strategic goal around restoring birth to Indigenous communities. Couchie is a citizen of the Nipissing First Nation.
“Carol has voluntarily used her extensive training, education, and natural abilities to deliver programs, workshops, events, and ultimately babies in rural, urban, remote, and isolated First Nations. In 2016 the K’Tigaaning Midwives Clinic and Birthing Centre located on Nipissing First Nation became the second on a First Nation in Ontario.” stated the Heroes in Health Award submission.
“Carol Couchie of the K’Tigaaning Midwives has been transferring health and well-being for First Nation Women and families in many communities. She has influenced and shaped viewpoints of the Aboriginal Midwifery practice.”
Marcie Simpson has worked for 12 years at the Alderville First Nation. Simpson is currently the Healthy Child Development Coordinator for the Alderville First Nation and is very dedicated to her job and community. She is responsible for babies and children 0-6 years old providing parenting and family support along with assisting other health staff in their children’s programming. Marcie also oversees the Children’s oral health initiative, Canada Prenatal Nutrition and Healthy Child Development programmes.
Simpson began working with Alderville FN as a lay home visitor, which provides meaningful outreach to community. Simpson helps families become empowered by encouraging them to lead healthier lives and make healthier choices. Simpson is a tireless advocate for community.
“Marcie’s love of children is evident in all that she does. There are individuals in the community who would truly be missed if they were not doing the things they do. We appreciate the dedication of Marcie to our little ones and know that our First Nation is so fortunate to have her on our Health team.” stated the award submission.
“Mino Bmaadzid” meaning “Good Health” was the conference logo. The image is about medicine picking with family and expresses the mind, spirit, emotions and physical teachings of the medicine wheel. Designed by Anishinaabe Kwe Darlene (Dolly) Peltier from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory who further works as an Illustrator for the Wikwemikong Board of Education.