Anishinabek Nation recognizes two Island health heroes

Three individuals were recently honoured as Heroes in Health by the Anishinabek Nation at a Sault Ste. Marie conference. From left is Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre community researcher and registered nurse Karen Pitawanakwat, Aundeck Omni Kaning community health co-ordinator Shirley Corbiere and Wahnapitae First Nation community wellness worker Wendy Tyson. photo by Marci Becking / Anishinabek News

SAULT STE. MARIE – Two Anishinaabe healthcare professionals on Manitoulin Island were recently recognized by the Anishinabek Nation on January 21 for making a difference in their communities and helping to transform the lives of the people they serve.

Aundeck Omni Kaning community health co-ordinator Shirley Corbiere was one of the two Island recipients of the Anishinabek Nation Heroes in Health Awards. A total of three awards were given out at the ceremony, with the third recipient being Wendy Tyson, community wellness worker at Wahnapitae First Nation.

“It was really nice to get that recognition,” said Ms. Corbiere, a past recipient of a health recognition award from the organization when it was still known as the Union of Ontario Indians. She attended the event with her sister and community worker Mandy McGraw.

Some of the remarks shared about Ms. Corbiere during the awards presentation, as printed in the Anishinabek News, state that she is passionate about her health work and has worked to ensure the services in Aundeck Omni Kaning remain strong and steady, while also being relevant and useful for the community members. She was nominated for the accolade by Naandwegamik Health Centre team lead Jenny McGraw.

Ms. Corbiere has taken particularly close care of mothers, babies and elders, as well as approached diabetes and high blood pressure. Rather than simply providing health supports, she also advocates for education and prevention of these conditions before they become problems, as well as monitoring individuals to help manage their health.

She said she looks forward to continuing on the health initiatives that the community has already advanced.

“I want to say a big thank you for (the community’s) support and for nominating me for this award,” said Ms. Corbiere.

The other Manitoulin award winner came from the community of Wiikwemkoong.

“I was honoured,” said Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre registered nurse and community researcher Karen Pitawanakwat, one of the award winners.

“Mary-Jo Wabano (the health services director at Naandwechige-Gamig) started off saying she wishes she could nominate everybody at the health centre, but eventually chose me because of my work focused around aged care,” said Ms. Pitawanakwat. “She gave the example that I’m able to do the work I do in our language and how much that’s appreciated.”

Speaking remarks from the evening stated that Ms. Pitawanakwat has adapted her care approaches to reflect current trends and best practices within the healthcare industry. 

“Karen takes the time to listen and visit with the people; her knowledge and use of Anishinaabemowin language is a true demonstration of respect and love for the people,” stated Ms. Wabano in her nomination form.

Expositor readers may remember Ms. Pitawanakwat’s name from the recent series in this newspaper about the Canadian Indigenous Cognitive Assessment (CICA), a revolutionary tool to diagnose mental functioning impairments that is culturally specific and sensitive to the lived realities of Anishinabek people. 

Her role in developing that tool was a factor that supported her nomination. Ms. Pitawanakwat said she hoped this award win would help to spread the word about the CICA so more lives could be changed for the better.

Joining Ms. Pitawanakwat at the awards ceremony was Ms. Wabano, staff from Noojmowin Teg who also work closely with aging populations, Island community caregivers and Lorrilee McGregor from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

“Chi-miigwetch to everyone. I’ve always felt supported, welcome and got very positive feedback from all of the communities that I go in,” said Ms. Pitawanakwat.

Each award winner received a framed certificate that was signed by Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare.