Anishinabek Nation recognizes its heroes in health

Sarah Williams, Right to Play co-ordinator at Sheguiandah First Nation, is one of several individuals in the health field who recently received Heroes in Health awards from the Anishinabek Nation.

M’CHIGEENG – The Anishinabek Nation annually recognizes individuals in the health field who have exceeded their regular duties to keep citizens in their community safe. Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare presented Heroes in Health Awards during the sixth annual health conference held virtually, recently. Two of those awarded are from Manitoulin Island.

“There are many health heroes throughout the territory and today, we will be recognizing a few,” Grand Council Chief Hare was quoted saying by the Anishinabek News in its January 22 edition. “COVID-19 has presented our First Nations with many challenges. The scale of the crisis and its impact has and is still causing us a lot of fear, uncertainty and anxiety across the nation. It’s disrupted our work, our family routines, and created social isolation which is causing so many of us mental stress and anxiety.” 

“In addition to that, our traditional lifestyles that are a source of our resiliency also pose a threat to the spread of the virus,” said Grand Council Chief Hare in the release. “Over the last year, we would have normally been celebrating our regular traditional gatherings like powwows, harvests, coming of age ceremonies, etc.”

“Yet, we are seeking our own solutions to this pandemic. With vaccinations coming and being creative in using our traditional knowledge, practice and medicines, sealing off our territories and other preventative measures like wearing a mask and social distancing, we can get through this,” continued the Grand Council Chief. “And so today, let’s celebrate and honour those members in our territory who have stepped up and extended themselves to help others keep us safe and who are helping us get through this difficult time,” the Anishinabek News reported.

Sarah Williams, Right to Play co-ordinator at Sheguiandah First Nation, is one of the local award winners. Anishinabek News reported that, “Sarah is a true champion for the youth primarily, but the community as a whole. During the pandemic lockdown, she continues to engage with our youth and co-ordinate with other programs in ways that promote self-esteem and inclusivity.”

“She works to provide opportunities for our youth through community events like March Break youth camp, summer fun days, and Halloween haunted trail. Sarah is always encouraging and supportive. During this difficult time, she continues to ensure that our youth’s mental health is first and foremost.”

Anishinabek News quoted Grand Council Chief Hare as saying, “lastly, we honourably recognize Martina Osawamick, also known to many as Nokomis Martina. Martina is a citizen of Wiikwemkooong Unceded Territory. She is a survivor of Indian Residential School, Indian Day School, a survivor of trauma and grief and even ovarian cancer.”

“Even though she has endured much trauma in her lifetime, she is a Nokomis to a lot of individuals who seek positive life changes,” Grand Council Chief was quoted as saying in the release. “Even though she is retired, she continues to work very hard in the communities of N’Swakamok and Wiikwemkoong helping individuals emotionally, mentally, physically and ensuring they are spiritually safe.”

“Martina works with Cambrian College and Laurentian University students, Kina clients and N’Swakamok Friendship Centre clients where she sits one-on-one or virtually to provide clarity, understanding and guidance to all who are striving for good health and balance. She is often called on for opening/closing prayers, as an elder, for individual supports, and shares her traditional knowledge,” said Grand Council Chief Hare. “Martina demonstrates health in many ways; she does this in modelling a positive lifestyle and is always open to sharing the teachings and Anishinaabemowin daily to those around her.”