May 13, 2019
Second Northern Indigenous Guys Gathering Welcomes Reps from 27 Communities
Four years ago there were less than a handful of Indigenous men's wellness groups in northern BC. How far we've come! Today 33 communities boast men's clubs with many group facilitators attending one of two Train the Trainer workshops that have been hosted by the FNHA and the DUDES Club in the past year. Some groups use the DUDES Club toolkit, but many adapt the format to what the guys want. Either way works and is encouraged.
Hopping on the bus and carpooling out to Camp Friendship, 60 km from Prince George, in mid-April, guys joked and laughed together. Once inside Tsitniz Lodge, Lheidli T'enneh representative Frank Russell Jr. welcomed all to the territory as brothers, while Henry Morgan, Men's Wellness Coordinator for the FNHA, led introductions. Keith Henry, FNHA Regional Project Developer, paid tribute to the memory of Preston Guno who was a significant presence and leader from the first gathering. The drum's power and the memorable honour song performed by Clayton Gauthier touched each person there. Preston's presence was felt again when the men watched the video from the 2017 gathering, and a plate was set out for him and the Ancestors at dinner. Preston's work continues in the spirit world.
Coming together was an opportunity for groups to share delicious, healthy and homemade food; discuss their best practices; ask for ideas and support to be more successful; identify challenges; and to connect in a meaningful way. Woven through presentations on Community Connections with Northern Health; Connecting with Community Resources or Health Resources or Providers; Men's Group Report: Where are we at? What have we done; Group Barriers and Challenges; Finding Our Voices and Next Steps, were opportunities to smudge, drum, sing, pray, and connect with the Ancestors. Traditional healer, Tom Smith, met with individuals, and almost 50 guys were screened for diabetes by Matthew Summerskill and Sagar Sandhu of the Mobile Diabetes Clinic from Carrier Sekani Family Services. Many others, including members of the provincial DUDES Club team and Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapists (IFOT) were also integral to the weekend's success.
Saturday night each man made a drum and soon the room was vibrating with song and drumbeats. The guys opened up and had conversations around residential school, language, grandmothers, family and ancestors. The next morning, once the new drums were ready to use, the sound was even more intense.
With another powerful Warrior weekend concluding, the reverberations of this second Northern Indigenous Men's Gathering will spread healing and strength across the North.
If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Henry.Morgan@fnha.ca or check out http://www.dudesclub.ca/.