Woman Warriors Newsletter

Program Expansion to Onion Lake Cree Nation

Our tentative plans to move the Women Warriors Program & Research January 2018

Last Friday myself, Onion Lake band councilor, Dolores Pahtayken, our Master’s student from the University of Calgary, Megan, Women Warrior participant, Ashley, Elder from the Ekweskeet Healing Lodge, Verna Buffalo Calf and gardening expert, Tracey Lepp met to discuss research and tentative plans to move the program on reserve.

Meagan has received ethics approval from the University of Calgary to start her research on food insecurity and informal systems of accessing food starting on October 2nd at the pre-program Medicine Wheel Talk. She will be moving to Lloydminster for the 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Program and has a mixed method research plan including participant observation, baseline interviews, personal stories, supportive network mapping, and interviews with local dieticians.

I’ve warned Megan she’ll be sore, and perhaps the most in-shape Master’s student at the U of C. We’re going to take her health measurements including blood pressure, waist circumference and weight, and she’s discussed making it part of her thesis – a before and after comparison of her health after completing the program. I think it’s a good idea, but I also want to add that Megan’s barriers to healthy living are not equivalent to our participants. (Following are some explicit stories, please refrain from reading if you are sensitive).

To contextualize this observation, I want to share a conversation I had with the Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre’s new receptionist, Hermaline. She asked if there was room in the program and I had to put her on the waiting list. I asked her where she’s from – what every Indigenous person asks when we meet – and she stated she’ s a member of Little Pine First Nation. It’s approximately an hour east of Lloydminster on Highway 16, and located 18 minutes from Poundmaker First Nation. I stated I knew about Little Pine First Nation through tragic circumstances; last October, two days before Rise Up Mighty Warrior (our violence awareness and prevention conference) there was a fatal shooting, the victim Tami Frank was murdered by what family describes as a “crazy ex-boyfriend” with a history of harassment and intimidation. It resulted in a manhunt and as this CBC article, Woman dead, sister wounded in Little Pine First Nation shooting that led to BC manhunt states:

“The man charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting, 40-year-old Sheldon Kyle Thunderblanket, was found dead today in an area east of Revelstoke, B.C.  He was also accused of shooting a female RCMP officer at a traffic stop near Golden, B.C., the next day. The officer is recovering in hospital.” 

Hermaline told me she used to babysit Tami when she lived on Little Pine. She was living in Edmonton, attending Grant McEwan University when she heard the news. She admitted that for three weeks after the shooting she felt unsafe. Hermaline felt the impact of violence committed against a community member, even when she was hundreds of miles away, and it manifested in her life.

I also want to share a local story of horrific violence that impacts the women in our area. On September 8, 2017, the Edmonton Journal reported, Red Deer man admits separate killings of two Onion Lake Cree Nation women:

“Family members of Jeanette Marie Chief and Violet Heathen sat in an Edmonton courtroom and wiped away tears as violent details of their loved ones’ deaths were revealed after Gordon Alfred Rogers, 60, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder. Both women were from Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan near the border with Alberta, and both first encountered Rogers at the Alberta Hotel in Lloydminster, according to an agreed statement of facts.”

The emotional and psychological trauma from violence is a constant in the lives of Indigenous women. It’s connected to all of us regardless of time and space, and it manifests in our bodies, regardless if the act is committed against us directly. Indigenous ways of knowing and healing teach us, we are all connected: seven generations before us, seven generations after us. A community members pain is all of our pain. On the one-year memorial of Tami’s passing, and in honor of the memory of Jeanette Chief and Violet Heathen, I ask you to say a prayer for their families.  To the past and present participants that are affected by these passing, I send you my deepest condolences.

When I first started Women Warriors I had great intentions of helping Indigenous women get healthy. Initially, I didn’t understand the deep and complex issues of colonial violence, and trauma that manifests in our bodies. I have learned that healing our mind, body, and spirit is the foundation to building good health. While I’m excited for Megan’s research on food insecurity and I’m grateful for our partners at the Univesity of Calgary, I also want to let all our participants know that we respect the cultural teachings and Indigenous ways of knowing. While Women Warriors is a physical activity program with nutrition education, we also offer a starting point on your healing journey. Meagan and I are open to including Indigenous ways of knowing and healing in the program and research.

With all these factors in mind, I’m excited to announce that there are tentative plans to move the Women Warriors program to Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) starting January 2018. Our meeting on Friday was a great starting point and we have a second meeting planned for Monday, October 2nd at OLCN. I will keep you updated on developments and I’m hoping I can register the 17 people on the waiting list for next session in Onion Lake.

Women Warriors Podcast, Season 2 on Healing 

It is fortunate that before I release the second season of the Women Warriors podcast on Monday, October 2nd, my interview with the host of the Jig is Up podcast, Darcy Robinson is being released on Tuesday, September 26th. The reason being is that I reveal the backstory of how Women Warriors came to be and how my identity as a Metis woman has helped me navigate Indigenous women’s health and contributed to the creation of the Women Warriors podcast.

I am excited to release my interviews with all the fantastic guests because I have learned at least one lesson from each interview. There is an incredible wealth of knowledge and stories of personal healing in each interview and I urge you to subscribe on iTunes or check out our website to listen.

I am releasing Dr. Carrie Bourassa’s show notes early so you can get a glimpse of what we talk about in her interview.

EP11 Dr. Carrie Bourassa on Serving Community, How Racism Impacts Health & Cultural Safety

Dr. Carrie Bourassa is a Chair in Northern & Indigenous Health and Senior Scientist at Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury (HSNRI), Ontario and the Scientific Director of the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (IAPH) at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. She is Métis, belonging to the Regina Riel Métis Council #34. Dr. Bourassa is the first woman to be appointed as the Scientific Director of IAPH and shares how her perspective as a Metis woman guides her in this role.

On today’s episode Carrie shares:

  • Her academic journey from undergrad to Ph.D.
  • Her path to becoming a researcher.
  • The realization that her purpose was to serve community.
  • A snapshot of Indigenous health research over 15 years.
  • The importance of humility as an Indigenous researcher.
  • Being guided as a Metis woman in the position of Scientific Director of the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health.
  • Living well with lupus.
  • How racism impacts health.
  • Importance of cultural safety in the healthcare system.

Selected Links from this Episode

Connect with Carrie 

Please mark your calendars for Monday, October 2nd for the release date of Dr. Bourassa and Dr. Wicklum’s interviews.