Healthy Living in the North

Ts’uhoont’l Whuzhadel – Welcome – Bienvenue

Lheidli: “where the two rivers flow together”

T’enneh: “the People”

First Nations art on building depicting a heart with the words: "The Spirit of the Heart Welcomes our Canadian Athletes".

For the first time ever, the Canada Games have an Official Host First Nation. The 2015 Canada Winter Games are taking place on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh.

It seems that Prince George is a national leader once again! For the first time ever, the First Nation on whose territory the Canada Winter Games are being held has been invited to co-host the Games and has participated fully as a true partner and Host First Nation. The flag of the Lheidli T’enneh people flies proudly alongside all of the flags that celebrate the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George; equally represented.

However, this partnership is more than just the symbolism of flags. The 2015 Canada Winter Games organizers have been immersed in the practical and nitty-gritty details of pulling off a successful winter games event – such as making sure speedskaters had the right safety bumpers and that partners like Northern Health could help ensure top-notch medical response and first aid readiness. Yet at the same time, they also worked hard in this new arena of building a meaningful relationship with the keepers of the traditional territory. In finding the proper and respectful ways to work together with a local First Nation, the 2015 Canada Winter Games Committee has made sure the first ever Host First Nation experience in Prince George has set the bar for all others to follow!

The Dakelh (Carrier) people have lived upon this land for untold centuries and were frequently hosts to gatherings. Thus, hosting an event at the place “where the two rivers flow together” is not a new experience for the local First Nation! Traditional protocols observe and respect the roles of both host and visitor. While these protocols have governed relations on the land for centuries they are still fresh and useful in the modern world. The Lheidli T’enneh have brought these ancient skills to the modern venue of the Canada Winter Games.

The story of a journey – the theme of the winter games and the heart of the opening ceremonies – also honoured the lives and history of the people of Lheidli T’enneh for their tens of centuries of living on this land. The contributions of Dakelh people are seen throughout these games. The work of Dakelh artists are evident everywhere, from the broad sweep of the shapes and colours in the official 2015 Canada Winter Games banners lining the streets to the fine details of the medals and from the wraps surrounding the pillars at the Civic Plaza to the shop windows of downtown businesses. This generous sharing of Carrier culture marked and deepened the experience of the Games for visitors and residents alike.

In the heart of downtown Prince George, often seen as a troublesome area in need of revitalization, the Lheidli T’enneh pavilion has anchored an ongoing warm winter welcome offered by Prince George and the Host First Nation. Sharing food, music and culture is the life blood here in the pavilion. The sound of drums and the performances by talented musicians and singers surrounded by food and history and culture resonates and draws in visitors. So much so that if you want to be in the audience for the 9:30 performance, I was told by a laughing greeter, “you had better be in a seat by 8:30.”

In every case where the Lheidli T’enneh have walked in the Games, the power and significance of the Games has been magnified. The opening ceremonies spoke to all who call this fair land home. The story of the river and the people was laid down, followed by the railroad and highway. The athletes walked these pathways as they entered, and by walking the symbolic land, the stage was set for the ceremonies. All nations were represented in the opening ceremonies but the centre-piecing of the Lheidli T’enneh opened the eyes of viewers to the depth and richness of Dakelh culture. The overall impression – that Prince George has got talent – was obvious. From Tristan Ghostkeeper’s athletic artistry to the little ones who sang and bounced for joy in their performances, to the pride of Chief Frederick, the message was clear: you don’t need to spend a ton of money on big name acts to move people to tears of pride. You just need to look at those amongst whom you live and see the gifts in the place that we call home.

The Games celebrate winter – one of the two seasons in northern B.C. (winter and not winter!) – in a profound way: by bringing young athletes to a national stage where they can ply their sport on snow or ice. In this shared space – a place where all eyes focus on youth and their future – we have found a way to be together honourably, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, as hosts to the Games.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love – teaching.

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National Aboriginal Day: A celebration of family and culture

June 21 was National Aboriginal Day – a day for Northern Aboriginal groups to come together and celebrate their culture and achievements.

NH reps at Aboriginal Day

L-R: Julia Stephenson, Joan Greenlees and Laura Johnston were three of the NH representatives talking to people about health and wellness at the Aboriginal Day celebrations.

Fort George Park, the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, was the site of celebrations in Prince George this year, and I dropped by in the morning to visit the folks at the Northern Health booth and catch the opening remarks. It was 10:30a.m. but already the sun was hot and there was a crowd milling about the local organizations’ booths (I saw Canadian Red Cross, UNBC, and the Northern BC First Nations HIV/AIDS Coalition, to name a few), and food and craft vendors.

I was welcomed at the Northern Health booth by Laura Johnston, a tobacco reduction coordinator from Population Health; Joan Greenlees, executive assistant for Northern Cancer Control Strategy and Aboriginal Health; and Julia Stephenson, an SFU practicum student working on her master’s degree in Public Health, who were all there to share information about NH public health and population health services, like healthy eating and quitting smoking.

“It’s good to have so many groups come together,” said Stephenson, who was happy to be helping Northern Health share health and wellness information with the public at the event. “The Aboriginal community is important and we want to celebrate everything they’re doing for our area.”

Bloodborne pathogens team

Trish Howard and Sandra Barnes were representing the NH bloodborne pathogens team, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Next to the NH booth were some representatives of the new HIV101 campaign. I met Trish Howard, the Aboriginal Coordinator for the blood borne pathogens integration team, and Sandra Barnes, an HIV designate nurse. They were both in attendance to raise awareness and educate people about HIV/AIDS with the goal of reducing the stigma around the disease.

“Our biggest thing is getting the message out – HIV is not a death sentence,” said Barnes. “Early diagnosis is key – so get tested. If you’re sexually active, get tested.”

Barnes shared a frightening statistic: 25% of people that have HIV don’t know they have it, and it’s believed that this 25% is responsible for up to 75% of new infections.

“You can’t stop the spread if you don’t know, but we have everything to control it.” Barnes said being at events like the Aboriginal Day celebrations is important for their initiative because when you bring people together for a common goal, it’s easier to talk about difficult things when it’s out in the public.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Louella Nome, a community health rep and band councillor for Lheidli T’enneh. I asked her about the importance of events like this celebration to her community.

“It’s great – it’s about bringing people together and unity,” Nome said. “It’s building bridges – our strength comes in numbers.” She was excited to have a lot of family members together in one place.

And that’s really what the day was all about – celebrating family and being together.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she’s not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master’s degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.
(NH Blog Admin)

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