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Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey IX - Living Marker Highlights

​Jul 13, 2018

​(L-R: Janelle Tom, Wenona James-Point, Jennifer Smith, Jordie Johnson, Mishon Sutherland)

All Living M​arkers and Corner Posts were invited to attend Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey IX (GW IX), which took place on May 15-17 at the Westin Bayshore on Coast Salish Territory. As Living Markers of health transfer, it is our job and honour​ to share our written reflections so that you may see what is happening in community through our eyes. 

This year First Nations youth from around the province participated in the event as well as many of our provincial and federal health partners. 

Jenn Smith, Living Marker, Vancouver Island Region

Every day is a gift.

It’s difficult to choose just one highlight because everything that happened throughout the conference was meaningful. What struck me the hardest was Michael Izen’s prostate cancer journey which he shared on Day 1 during the ‘Cancer and First Nations People in BC’ panel presentation.

In a humor-filled presentation, Michael shared his heroic cancer journey and told us about the book he wrote called ‘Finger up the Bum.’ He shared the victorious moments of surpassing the time limits of the doctors’ ongoing prognoses of his malignant metastatic cancer. And then, in an almost nonchalant way, he shared his surrender after learning that his cancer had spread to a point of no return. As he spoke of his acceptance of defeat, there were many tears in the crowd. It took my breath away to even think about having this type of conversation with my family.

Life is fast and complex and sometimes I get caught up. Michael’s story – raw and full of bravery – was a reminder that life is a gift. I’ve woken up each day since knowing that every single day is a gift. I admire Michael and I think of him daily. I hope that the rest of his days are the best that they can possibly be.

Screen. For Wellness.​ Do it for you. Do it for your family. Just do it.

Jordie Johnson, Living Marker, Interior Region


About three years ago, I lost a friend to an overdose.  We met up often and would see each other randomly out-and-about.  The shock and heartbreak of his passing was traumatic. He may have been​​ using alone.​

At this year’s Gathering Wisdom for a Shared Journey, there was a memorial quilt made for those who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis. On Day 1, Chiefs, health leaders, and other attendees shared stories from their families and communities regarding the overdose crisis. Their stories were saddening and eye-opening and brought forward some feelings hidden away about my friend who overdosed.

Attendees of the conference were given a patch of cloth and a marker to remember and honour loved ones lost to the crisis. Not being able to attend my friend’s funeral service, this was my first opportunity to pay my respects and reflect on the person he was. As I pinned the patch to the wall, I felt that he would be remembered onwards in a respectful manner.

On Day 3, the quilt was revealed. Thank you Jean and Crystal for the work of constructing the quilt and for honouring my friend “Carlos.”

Janelle Tom, Living Marker, Vancouver Coastal Region


At this year’s Gathering Wisdom, the First Nations Health Council introduced the 2018 Youth Leaders program, allowing for youth leaders from across the province to apply to attend GW IX to witness, learn from leadership and also provide their oral reflections. I enjoyed spending time with the youth leaders throughout the three-day event, answering their questions and listening to their excitement in receiving this opportunity.

What was most memorable for me was the culture that was woven throughout the conference, which included honouring ceremonies and cultural sharing from each region. During the calls to action ceremony on Day 1, Charlene Belleau stated, “ceremony is health.”. Another message that stuck with me is that the first four letters of health is ‘heal.’ I would like to thank all those who contributed and participated in the ceremonies and cultural sharing, as this medicine allowed for some healing throughout the conference. 

Wenona James-Point, Living Marker, Fraser Salish Region

Many of the speakers and topics through GW IX resonated with me on a personal level. 

It was an honour​ to sit with the FNHC 2018 Youth Leaders, witnessing them absorb the words that leadership had to share, developing questions, and challenges for leaders of our BC First Nations communities to accept the calls to action. I connected with and recognize the importance of youth leadership programs having attended several prior to becoming a part of the FNHA family. These opportunities create a space for youth working toward a career in health to see where they can make a difference, offering expertise in their area(s) of study.

I connected with elements of all stories through the ‘Cancer and First Nations peoples in BC’ and ‘Wholistic Approaches to Health and Wellness Planning’ presentations. I am thankful for the leaders, youth, community members and professionals who dedicate their lives to improving health and wellness of our communities.

Screen for wellness!

Mishon Sutherland, Living Marker, Northern Region

It’s Day 3 in the afternoon and I’m observing several Youth Leaders consolidating their thoughts and revisiting the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical impacts of the messages experienced over the course of the three-day forum. Approaches varied: page after page of notes, thoughts locked away in devices, meditative self-inquiry – the time to recount and recall has​ arrived. 

The contemplative spirit took the stage, her roots and being firmly planted in Fraser Salish territory – her words a direct reflection of the healing work she does in community. Courageously, she speaks from the heart, acknowledging first the territory, then her mentors (who exuded absolute love and pride for this young woman while she was on stage). So heartfelt, personal, and experiential were her words as she contextualized the last three days across all she does to help those in her region on a daily basis - her heartbeat caused her voice to crack and tears to flow. In my opinion, this was that moment that took the breath out of the room. 

What I experienced was an immediate and direct current of supportive energy leave the physical bodies of those in the room and envelop her, keeping her safe while she stood bravely in front of the close to 700 helpers and healers in the room – including her mentor, her support system and friend, who was beside her in the time it took to wipe my own teary eyes. 

Without fear, she was courageous enough to reveal the side of herself – the side of us all – that’s there beneath the surface, that’s there with us every day in every way. At the last moment, she touched the emotional and spiritual root in all of us, reminding us of why the impacts each of us offer, matters.

Musi Cho, Marcie Pruden. You’re my inspiration. ​

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