Wellness Conference features Juno winner Susan Aglukark

Juno Award-winning artist Susan Aglukark was the final speaker of the Mnaamodzawin Wellness Conference. Shutterstock

MANITOULIN – Every year Mnaamodzawin Health Services hosts a Wellness Conference, and this year was no different, albeit in a different way. Normally, the conference would be a three-day event at a local venue but this year it was delivered in a virtual format. On Tuesday, February 23 and Wednesday, February 24, from 9:30 am to 12 pm, registrants were invited to join the Wellness Conference from the comfort of their own homes and listen to the line up of informative, dynamic, and inspiring presentations offered. 

The conference was opened by the talented master of ceremonies Bob Goulais, of Nipissing First Nation, with opening remarks from Mnaamodzawin’s executive director, Craig Abotossaway, and opening prayer and drum song offered by elder Ken Kakeeway. First speaker on Tuesday, February 23 was Dr Tara Clapp, naturopathic doctor, of Integrated Health Care in St. Catharines. She presented on the similarities of naturopathic and traditional medicines, relating that both look at the health of the entire person, not just the presenting symptoms, as good health is all about balance. She talked about clinical nutrition, botanical and homeopathic medicine, and the role of gut bacteria and probiotics in weight loss and managing diabetes. 

Last speaker of the day was Dr. Lana Potts, family physician and medical director who specializes in First Nation health at Siksika Health and Wellness Centre located outside Calgary, Alberta. Dr. Potts is of Blackfoot origins and presented her inspiring story of her upbringing, rife with poverty, trouble and loss, and her journey to becoming a medical doctor through the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. The pain, vulnerability and hope that Dr. Potts shared with the audience was palpable even through a computer screen. 

Day two on Wednesday, February 24 was opened by local physiotherapist, Derek Debassige of Manitoulin Physio in M’Chigeeng. Mr. Debassige presented on what we can learn from the medicine wheel to help us manage pain and improve mental health during this unprecedented time of pandemic. Mr. Debassige talked about the benefits of meditation, positive mantras, and daily physical activity in improving mental health, managing stress and even sleeping better. 

Final speaker of the conference was Inuk artist, Juno Award winner and Order of Canada recipient Susan Aglukark. Amongst a backdrop of beautiful Indigenous blankets, Inuk ceremonial dress and artwork, Ms. Aglukark talked about her humble beginnings in Nunavut, dealing with abuse, leaving her home to work in Ottawa, becoming a singer and songwriter and dealing with instant fame as a young artist. Ms. Aglukark weaved her talk of healing and hope amongst her songs, singing about family, land and healing, including her most famous songs, ‘O Siem, Song of the Land,’ and an encore performance of Hina Na Ho. With her husband Jacques working the mixing board and microphone, it was possibly the best sounding Zoom performance ever. 

With the Wellness Conference closing on such a high note, the remarks from Mnaamodzawin’s executive director were very appreciative to all presenters and participants for putting aside the time to join us this year, and he thanked the Wellness Conference committee for organising another successful event even if in a different format. All participants received a special gift in the mail for attending and a couple of lucky people even won door prizes.

Mnaamodzawin Health Services hosts its annual Wellness Conference near the end of February every year. For more information on the presenters or their topics, contact Allied Health Manager Rebecca Milne at rebecca.milne@mnaamodzawin.com or check out its Facebook page or website at mnaamodzawin.com.