This year’s Survivors of Suicide (SOS) conference was dedicated to the survivors and all those who have been affected by suicide.
The 20th annual SOS conference, held Aug. 20-27, brought more than 210 people from 11 communities to Wapekeka First Nation. Guests also came from as far away as Manitoba, Sioux Lookout, Dryden and Thunder Bay.
First time participant Tammy Morrisseau from Keewaywin First Nation said the conference opened her eyes to the need for more awareness of suicide.
“I enjoyed all the workshops, listened to the stories the Elders had share and I have learned that we have to speak out more to start healing as a people,” Morrisseau said.
The conference featured four days of workshops, sharing circles, gospel jamborees, church services and special guests.
SOS committee youth representative Jonas Beardy said participants had a chance to share their healing efforts with others going through similar situations.
“The Survivors Of Suicide conference is a place for participants to share what they went through in the past and what’s present now, what they go through and its place for healing,” Beardy said.
Opening ceremonies included welcoming remarks by Wapakeka’s band council, Chief Norman Brown, Deputy Chief Ananias Winter and councillors Elsie Brown, Clara Winnepetonga and Donald Brown.
Also participating in the ceremony was the SOS committee, including Elders Rhoda Beardy from Red Lake, Mary Albany from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Ananias Winter of Wapekeka and youth representative Jonas Beardy.
The SOS conference was held at the Reverend Eleazor Winter Memorial School. Over the course of four days there were various workshops held on a range of topics including bullying, self-esteem, anger management and prescription drug abuse, among others.
After each day of workshops sharing circles were provided for participants to take part in.
Wakepeka has a new memorial hall, which was where the opening and closing ceremonies, gospel jamborees and church services took place.
The first night consisted of entertainment by special guest Susan Aglukark, an Inuk singer, songwriter and keynote speaker.
Ernest Monias was absent for the first night but arrived on Tuesday, after which he performed for three evenings straight. Some locals called the entertainment provided by Monias, “ The Monias fever”.
The event concluded with closing remarks by the SOS coordinator Gordon Winter.
To honour those who have passed a candle light vigil and releasing of yellow balloons was also conducted.
Wapekeka Chief Norman Brown said next year his First Nations plans to have something different for the annual conference.
“I hope that communities again take part in the 2013 conference because we are interested in adding something different. We hope to have the young people put up a concert,” Brown said.
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