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9th Annual Mino Bimaadiziwin Conference

The theme for this conference of Ganawenim Abinooji Oji’chaagwa (Nurturing the Child’s Spirit) was inspired by the hurt the country has been experiencing in recent years. When thinking about mental health and trauma, the early years are not always considered and issues are addressed when youth are acting out or withdrawn. Creating emphasis on the younger years and starting intervention and prevention sooner will help promote healthy coping strategies, build confidence, and ultimately, support community growth.

 

 

Gichi-miigwech to Gary Smith, our master of ceremonies for this year’s conference. 

Gary is from Naicatchewenin First Nation and is an Aftercare Clinician with Weechi-it-te-win Family Services, specializing in trauma-based healing. Gary is passionate about learning and creating opportunities to break barriers. He loves these gatherings because he is able to learn more of the language, visit with grassroots people, spend valuable time with our Elders, and echo what he hears back into his work. Through the stories, teachings, and lessons, “I am able to learn more about myself, and my family, and I am able to set goals, both personally and in my professional life.”

Gary’s ability to create a welcoming, interactive, and fun environment to learn and share knowledge is incredible! 

Day 1 Highlights

We were blessed to have Waasegiizhig present throughout our conference, with our Cultural Coordinators and local drummers. Following a Traditional Opening Ceremony, we heard from Serena Joseph, Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig’s Executive Director. She spoke on the intent behind this year’s theme and the importance of a wholistic approach to care. 
WNHAC’s Midwives, Sam Chisholm and Dawn Wiscombe, then took the podium to speak about midwifery, community, and culture. They detailed the hopes for this new program, mental health for pre and postnatal care, body feeding, and ways to support a new family. 
We then had Laura Horton present on this year’s topic of Nurturing the Child’s Spirit. Laura engaged the crowd with valuable teachings on child development, traditional practices with babies, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She highlighted the importance of the moss bag and tikinagan and how they are used to promote a feeling of safety and allow the child to absorb the world around them.
Day 1 ended with a presentation from Nicole Tuzi from Sick Kids Learning Institute. Nicole spoke of infant and early mental health promotion and intervention.

All the speakers had relevant thoughts related to the development of my own program planning, so I am grateful for them sharing their knowledge. A lot of humour and entertainment, despite some heavy topics.

Day 2 Highlights

Our Cultural Coordinators and drummers opened for us once again on Day 2!
Nicole Tuzi was back for the morning, expanding on facing adversity in childhood. She highlighted the importance of being present and interacting with children in their early years from 0-3. 
Ron Indian-Mandamin took the stage to explore the Creation Story. He spoke of epigenetics, which involves the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Ron also explored traditional family governance and promoting being welcoming and working together as a community to support social wellness for children and families.
Jason Cortvriendt, an Emotional Wellness Therapist for WNHAC’s Agichi’giizhigoonsag Youth Program, spoke about the importance of the land, teamwork, and mentorship. He showcased their program’s achievements and hopes for the future. Although this next presentation was brief, it was very informative and impactful.
Dr. Christopher Mushquash from Lakehead University joined us virtually to present on the development of culturally appropriate interventions for mental health and addiction difficulties in First Nations children and adolescents. Prevention isn’t just therapy, there needs to be a support system, and there needs to be collaboration. 
Lastly, our very own Ken Nash spoke on his journey to becoming a helper and the role of Cultural Coordinator at WNHAC and in communities. 

Miigwech to Seven Generations Education Institute for hosting us and providing delicious meals and to our drummers, Gerry, Eric, Vincent, Ken, Edmond, for opening and closing this amazing event in a good way!
And of course, Miigwech to our Knowledge Keepers for sharing and helping throughout, we are so grateful!

My favourite was the cultural teaching associated with taking care of ourselves to be able to take care of others. There were helpful messages of resilience and nurturing children with warmth and comfort. I heard so many thoughts about ways to improve lives and dialogue among communities.

The traditional incorporation of child nurturing and the reinforcement/reminder of children/youth mental health. It is never too late to learn and never too early to pay attention to mental health.

Miigwech to all who attended!

We cannot wait till next year!

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