Healthy Living in the North

Fatherhood, community, and culture: Reflections on parenting in Prince Rupert with Duane Jackson

Duane Jackson and daughter

Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Duane Jackson has worn many hats in his years serving children and families on the Northwest Coast. His many positions held include former Aboriginal Coordinator for Success by Six and Regional Coordinator for Children First. He now works with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society as a Trainer/Facilitator and Employment Counsellor. Jackson is also co-chair on the Aboriginal Steering Committee with the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Most importantly, Jackson is a family man – he and his wife are the proud parents of three children. Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Northwest Coast, but I’m Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton. I actually lived at one of the fishing canneries, North Pacific Cannery on Inverness Passage, when it was an operating cannery – now it’s a museum! I’ve been in Prince Rupert the majority of my life, grade 3 on, and went to high school here.

When I was 26, I met my wife, Christine, and we’ve been together for 23 years now. We have three children, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old.

As a father of three, what have you found most unexpected in fatherhood?

I didn’t expect it to be the humbling experience that it was. I realized right from the birth of my first child that the importance of this job was so completely over and above anything that I understood in my life at that point. This small individual was going to encompass me so completely. With my first boy, with Caleb – I actually never put him down once! I carried him everywhere. I never put him in a buggy or a stroller; I carried him. He was in my arms all the time.

The biggest thing was the level of humility that was required, and the beauty of that was how much growth was involved in that process because of the fact that if you don’t embrace that humility, it will totally uproot you.

You graduated from college at age 40 and immediately began your work in serving children and families. How do your life experiences and education combine in your approach to your life and work?

Throughout my Early Childhood Education learning, the one thing that really got me was advocacy. But then of course, according to my culture, as a Gitanmaax person, I must advocate for children. Every child within my society is my responsibility. Not every Gitanmaax child, every child. My culture speaks to it, and as an Early Childhood Educator, my code of conduct speaks to it as well, that every child is my responsibility.

Prince Rupert harbour front

For Duane, Prince Rupert’s many activities and diverse population make it a healthy community for kids. Access to activities, however, can be a challenge.

What makes Prince Rupert a healthy community for children?

We have many activities for children, from minor league soccer and basketball, to the recreation centre for more activities. But we must remember that Prince Rupert is leading the province in unemployment. There is a huge societal barrier to accessing some of these activities. It’s not just Indigenous people who believe these programs just aren’t for them. It’s societal. In Canada we have the lowest percentage, globally, of children and families who access community programming.

We see a lot of families out at some great community events here: the Halloween Fest, the Winter Fest, the Children’s Festival … you see all generations of families out together, from the elders down to the smallest children.

One of the things I am always excited to see is children from diverse backgrounds who speak their language. Not just Indigenous languages, but all cultural groups. When they speak the language of their parents, I think that’s really exciting. You see that a lot here in Prince Rupert because there are many ethnicities represented here.

In your opinion, what small things do you do, that others can do, that may have big impacts in supporting healthy childhoods?

I think it’s in doing things together – doing activities together – and getting kids off of the computer. Getting kids off of screens! We’re steadily raising a generation of young people that will not have the ability to communicate effectively and positively. There’s just no amount of emoticons that you are going to attach to a text message that are actually going to tell me how you feel. This is starting younger and younger. You can go to a restaurant and see a family of four where all four people are on screens, no one is having a conversation. At our table here at home, where we have dinner together every night, there are no phones. My phone goes away. I have that deal with my family – and we talk. At the table – no one is watching TV!

These are the pieces – do things together, be involved, be supportive. And not just going out and watching your children do their activities. One of the most exciting things for me this year was having my daughter come and watch me coach basketball. She would come and watch my team play, and watch me coach. Bring your children with you into a social setting so that they can see how you are in that setting. All of us are different in our own homes than in a social setting. I think the secret is to get your children out with you in social events.

Knowing what you know now – if you were to go back to those early years with your children – what would you try to do more of with them?

Play, play, play. Hold onto them as much as possible, which is what I do now – even with the older boy and my 14-year-old. Squash ’em, squash ’em, squash ’em as much as I can! And never show them anger. I can show them disappointment, I tell my children I can be disappointed with your decisions, but at no time, ever, are you a disappointment.

If I were to go back, punishment would go out the door. I would go with restorative justice. I would walk, and talk, and teach and do nothing else but that.

If I was to talk to a parent, or talk to myself when I was a new parent, I’d tell them just to love and give and respect your children unconditionally. To give them these three things throughout our lives together and expect nothing in return. That’s what I would do … and advise.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Health is a journey, not a destination

Photo of man holding basketball

After a health screening, Duane Jackson took steps to improve his health and is sharing his story and tips to inspire other men.

This week is the 2nd Annual Canadian Men’s Health Week. It’s an excellent opportunity to look at some of the highlights of men’s health work in the north and to acknowledge some of the men who are making positive changes in their lives. I thought it would be a great time to share my interview with Duane Jackson.

Duane is Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton but has lived in Prince Rupert most of his life. Duane shared with me his story of how he has taken steps towards improving his health.

What motivated you to look at your health?

Every year, I do the health screening that is offered at the All Native Basketball Tournament. Two years ago, I was honoured to be the Male Role Model for both this initiative and the tobacco reduction program. I thought that this title should be more than just show! When I first did the testing, my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels were all pretty high so I started taking steps towards lowering those by looking at what I was eating and by being more active. This past year, I went in and took the screening again and my blood sugar and blood pressure were lower but my cholesterol was twice as high as it was supposed to be. At 48 years old, this wasn’t something I was willing to simply look past and not take seriously.

What did you do?

It was recommended to me that I see my doctor and have further tests done. I booked an appointment right away and the tests came back with the same results. Between my doctor and I, we came up with the plan to lose 30 pounds over the next 6 months. I started walking to and from work every day. In fact, any time I had to go out, I walked. I cut caffeine completely out of my diet and my energy levels went up within the week. I started eating foods with healthier fats, like walnuts, to help with my cholesterol. I started checking labels for saturated fats and was surprised to find that some foods that we are being told are very healthy really aren’t. Check the label!

What changes have you noticed?

I haven’t really checked my weight but I can tell you that I have had to purchase new clothing as my other shirts were starting to hang off me and all of my pants are too big. I even pulled on a pair of pants that I had stopped wearing a while ago when they got too small! I am also looking to use the belt punch for the first time, well, ever.

I have started to see things differently, too. I thought that I had played my last game of basketball, but now I’ve purchased a new pair of shoes and am planning to make my 48-year-old comeback next season!

Any message you’d like to share with men?

As a very good friend pointed out to me, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know you don’t know it.” I would recommend to all men to get the health screening done because I was feeling pretty healthy and the truth is that I wasn’t. As a father of three, I can say that knowing was my first step.

The steps afterward weren’t life-ending decisions, they were only a life change and, truthfully, not hard ones. I still have a treat every now and then and even treat myself to fast food occasionally – I just walk home afterward. Also, I don’t think that I’m aiming for the 30 pounds anymore, I’m simply aiming to be healthy. I won’t know when I’ve reached the pounds I wanted to lose, I’m fairly certain that this is my life from now on.

Haa’mii’yaa,

Duane

Feeling motivated yet? What things have you done this week to improve your health?

Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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