Community-based healing programs featured at Matawa gathering
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stressed the need for community-based prescription drug abuse recovery programs during Matawa’s Back to Our Roots Gathering III.
“I commend Matawa leadership, Elders and frontline workers for engaging their peoples in this way, supporting and empowering community-based plans to addressing their challenges,” Atleo said on the first day of the Nov. 6-8 gathering in Neskantaga. “Many traditional healing methods require the health of the lands and rivers, so it is essential that economic interests are not ahead of human interests. Our peoples come first, our Nations come first, this is fundamental. Our communities must be healthy before we can fully thrive.”
A number of land-based programs for community members addicted to prescription drugs were highlighted during the gathering, including the work being done in Neskantaga.
“They kind of lost their culture and traditions,” said Neskantaga health director Rhoda Angees about the community members taking part in Neskantaga’s land-based program. “They don’t know anything about (their culture and traditions), so those things seem to be helping them more than any other thing that they’ve been doing.”
Angees said Neskantaga is also looking at developing a Suboxone treatment program to treat community members who are addicted to prescription drugs and other opiates, noting that some community members have left the community for treatment.
“We have to find out how many people are being affected in the community, but we do know a few people that are affected,” Angees said. “In the mean time we are trying to help those people ... with addictions.”
Angees said the community has a “violent past,” so her goal is to build a healthy team among her own staff so they will be able to help others.
“What they learn, I want them to take to the community to teach the community,” Angees said. “It’s a long process; they’re slowly coming along.”
Angees is also looking to develop activities for target groups in the community.
“Next week we are going to start doing some youth activities,” Angees said.
Atleo also discussed Ring of Fire issues with the Matawa chiefs during the gathering and called for the Matawa communities to be fully engaged prior to development in their territory, which includes the Ring of Fire mineral exploration area.
“First Nation lands hold tremendous potential, and this potential can only be fully unleashed through adequate recognition and respect of First Nation rights, treaties and the full participation of our peoples,” Atleo said. “Meaningful consultation and accommodation, and free, prior and informed consent means engaging up front and support for environmental and economic sustainability and self-sufficiency. This also means our fair share of any revenues generated.”
Neskantaga has been engaged in a fight to prevent a bridge being built over the Attawapiskat River and slow down the Ring of Fire development.
Grand Chief Harvey Yesno also supported Neskantaga’s efforts to protect their lands.
“We stand behind the people of the community who’ve declared their land first and foremost,” Yesno said. “Treaty 9 states that the government cannot have claim to its land without consent from the First Nations. The Treaty making discussions and subsequent agreement was to share the wealth of the lands — not to surrender it.”
Email to a Friend
add to del.icio.us