More Than Just a Skating Rink: Altruistic Peers Strive for Change

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(Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White (Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Fellow workers make efforts towards a better future for youth

By: Damon Hunter

Thursday,  November 15th was the official opening of the 2018-2019 season of skating at Naotkamegwanning’s Chi Key Wis Arena. It brought smiles, not just to skaters, but also to the people that made it possible.

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Local skaters participate in an open-skate held at the arena (Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Since the major reconstruction of the Chi Key Wis Arena four years ago, Mary-Anne Mooring has been the woman behind the scenes helping to make it happen.

Mooring is a longtime Power Engineer, with three decades of experience, including Chief Engineer at the old Winnipeg Arena which housed the Jets and Winnipeg Moose, and Assistant Chief Engineer at the University of Manitoba. She was also responsible for overhauling Kenora Recreational Centre and making their ice.

Mechanical work was what she specialized in for the most part. “I took care of all the physical plans,” she stated.

She expressed gratitude for her fellow workers Glen White, Everett Cowley, and CJ Gustafson. Without the band and council’s financial and motivational support, no such progress would be made, she explained.

Mooring says she is grateful for her partner Denise Lysak who writes some of the grants for Naotkamegwanning projects alongside her.

Everett Cowley is one of the first arena workers, employed there since day one, ‘from where it was just a few light bulbs working and natural ice’.

Prior to his current position, he had already been working at the arena before major changes took place, including removal of mold. His current job, maintaining the Zamboni and ice, is a critical one. Cowley commented that so far there haven’t been many problems and with everyone’s work contributions, things have been running very smoothly.

He related that his main motivation is the kids. He remarked that his grandson is an influence as well, stating that he provides a major incentive to do what Cowley does day by day.

(Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White (Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White

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(Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Together as a group, the workers have been largely responsible for most of the grander changes around Whitefish Bay. Locations such as the new beach, the baseball diamond, and the basketball court are some of the their accomplishments and there will soon be a new skate park along with a conjoined bicycle track.

The goal, Mooring says, is to give the youth a chance at finding what they enjoy and to have something fun to do in their free time.

“We’re about making things better, not just taking care of ourselves,” she says. “It’s about the community.”

Many more projects are aspired for, the biggest being a whole new training facility for young athletes. Wrestling, hockey, and lacrosse are the prime targets as of now. Beach volleyball and a new fitness centre are also very much wanted.

“I know there’ve been some great athletes that could’ve come out of Whitefish Bay and they never had the courage to be able to do what they should’ve done,” Mooring said. “To become those athletes, they need a network for support.”

The following article was also published in the Kenora Daily Miner – The Enterprise in print and online. Available here

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A Safe Space to Grow

By Katherine Adams

Freeman White Jr has taken the opportunity to visit his home town of Whitefish Bay, this time working with Right to Play under Kenora Chiefs Advisory.

“I wish that I had this when I was a kid,” he said in an interview with Virginia Loon.

Right to Play was founded in 2000 by Olympic gold medalist Johann Olav Koss and has since grown worldwide. Right to Play serves 85 First Nation communities in Canada.

He said his goal is to provide a safe space to play and learn including sports, cooking classes and a place to do homework.

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Freeman White Jr. participates in many sports activities, including baseball (Photo Credit: John White)

“I have hopes that Right to Play can inspire youth to achieve their wildest dreams, either through the programs or just by talking with the kids that are involved,” he said.

Currently he comes to the school to Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. Starting in mid-January, he will be here on Saturdays to coordinate volleyball games with nearby reserves under the program.

He said he would like to deliver this program to ages 6-12, which is what the “After School Program” is designed for, but persons of all ages are welcome.

“I am aware that there are other programs that are being delivered to youth on a daily basis.  I would hope to collaborate with them and not compete,” he said.

He is here with the program for ten months from November 5th to August 31st.

An unexpected space of truth and reconciliation at Naotkamegwanning roundhouse

In recognition of Orange Shirt Day, Hockey Hall of Famer speaks at Indian Horse screening

By: Xavier Ranville and Wynter Taylor

It was a chilly last evening of September when Naotkamegwanning’s roundhouse was filled with more bodies than it has had in a long time – dedicated to residential school survivors.

The 40 plus community members and guests of all ages enjoyed traditional foods as wild rice and bannock before sitting down for the big screen and local George Kakeway’s similar story of residential school survival through hockey.

“Be who you are because that’s how you survive,” said Kakeway in discussion after the award-winning film adaption of the novel by the late Northwestern Ontario’s Anishinaabe Richard Wagamese.

Indian Horse, follows the fictional Anishinaabe character Saul, and his experience at residential school and his talent through hockey. The story captures many of the realities of racism and ill treatment Indigenous persons have faced.

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Kakeway as the only Indigenous boy played hockey in Kenora, later attending Assiniboia Residential School with later Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine (Photo Credit: Wynter Taylor)

The film left many people in tears touched by the story, either seeing for the first time on screen the real experiences of their loved ones or because they had no idea of this part of Canada’s history and what they went through.

Like many adults and elders like Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation’s George Kakeway, the story of Saul and his peers was very much a reality.

“As a survivor it becomes very hard to express what we went through,” he said in the community discussion.

George was taken from his home in 1951 at the age of 6.  He talked about his time at St. Mary’s Catholic Residential School in Kenora, that his hair was cut bald and punished for speaking Ojibwe. He expressed that this place, along with its sanitarium, was one of the loneliest places.

“The intent was to assimilate us, not to educate us,” he said.

Like character Saul, he was an orphan at age 10, and hockey had come available for him and he excelled, not just out of interest but a method of survival from experiences.

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George Kakeway said he would use hockey and other sports to get it out of your mind and survival. (Photo Credit: Wynter Taylor)

He said hockey gave him the opportunity to chose to go to Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Residential school which let him study and also gave him time to play hockey. His focus led him to become the chief at his home at the young age of 25.

In October of last year George and his team were inducted into Manitoba’s Hockey Hall of Fame.

September 30, Orange Shirt Day is not just the last day of the month but a national movement, and proposed national holiday of sharing residential school experiences. It remains a hard day for many elders to relive and share, taking courage.

Kakeway Indian Horse Screening Poster
Indian Horse Screening Poster (Photo Credit: Karli Zschogner)

While having heard about residential schools, Judi Cannon, a non-indigenous attendee, was overwhelmed to learn about what was going on inside and outside of the residential schools.

“I can’t even believe it would happen,” she said.  “I don’t understand how people could treat other people that way.”

Cannon, Director of Ontario SPCA for Partnerships and Community Outreach, along with her crew were invited into the community for their second year extraction of unaccounted for dogs.

Event was put on by the community’s journalism trainer and the community’s Women’s Shelter.

Noatkamewanning Hanisha Singers take a national stage in supporting families of missing and murdered

People of all ages shared a space of healing through a red jingle dress pow wow held in Winnipeg followed the five-day MMIW Inquiry.

By: Roland White

Families could feel the powerful shivers down their spine as Teddy Copenace solo lamenting song to missing and murdered indigenous women. The Red Jingle Dress pow wow, dedicated to the tragic missing and murdered women and men, was held at Winnipeg’s Lavallee School October 6.

“In’de dabajiitoon gi-nagamowan. (I sing from the heart.) Niminwendan apane gi-nagamowan owe nagamon (I feel good every time I sing this song.)”, says Copenace.

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Teddy Copenace, Leslie Copenace and Tommy Hunter (Photo Credit: Roland White)

Copenace says him and the rest of the Hanisha Singers volunteered to come to this event to help honour and support families in the healing process.

He describes the particular song, “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” on the groups titled album ‘Remembering & Honouring Our Lost and Stolen Sisters’ before he sings. Woke up crying, he says it came to him as a dream of a girl who was in distress and trying to reach out to him but he was unable to help her.

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Red Jingle Dress Dancers (Photo Credit: Karli Zschogner)

He explains his wife told him to go outside a make a fire and put tobacco down. While outside, the wind blew and he heard a voice say, “ogimaa- ikwe.” Afterwards he put down tobacco, he heard the leaves rustling like jingles and a voice saying again, “ Okijiichidaa-ikwe  was the one you were dreaming of.”

Desirae Paypompee was one of the red jingle dress dancers that came to participate in the pow-wow. Currently living in Winnipeg, she is originally from Naotkamegwannng First Nation.

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Desirae Paypompee, originally from Naotkamegwanning First Nation, joined as a jingle dress dancer and the Winnipeg pow wow. (Photo Credit: Karli Zschogner)

She says it was a pleasant surprise to see her community members partake in the event.

“It was very healing,” she says. “It made me feel apart of something big.”

She says she feels responsible for educating her son about respect. She says she believes that like the Orange Shirt Day movement, youth and adults should be educated about this horror.

“I do have relatives who have lost their loved ones and I also have friends within the city who have lost loved ones also,” she says.

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Jingle Dress Dancers dance to help heal the pain (Photo Credit: Roland White)

The organizers including Walking Little Bear Candace Arrow expressed gratitude to the Hanisha Singers for dedicating their time and energy in attending the MMIW pow-wow.

She says she started planning this event in February for a space for healing and unity for the affected families. She says the process ended up something much more.

“It kept me clean, it kept me driven and kept me focused” says Arrow.

Organizer Candace Arrow watching female drum group
Organizer Walking Little Bear Candace Arrow watches female drum group (Photo Credit: Roland White)

She says has experienced both sides, being a supporter for children and youth at Red River College, and as a victim and survivor.

“I was nearly taken. I was 14. I was lured by alcohol and the man took me to the river,” she says. “Who knows what he could of done with me. I jumped out of the moving car.”

She was getting very emotional and teary eyed.

She says out of principle, she kept her budget costs below the small missing persons rewards offered for finding missing indigenous girls.

She says she was overwhelmed by the large turn out, raffle and food contributions and considers having it next year.

“If I do have it next year, it’s going to be in every province,” she laughs.

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Naotkamegwanning youth learn respect to wildlife

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Carter Nash cutting up meat (Photo Credit: Kelsi Blackhawk)

By: Ocean Sky Tom

Students at Baibombeh Anishinaabe School got their hands all bloody last Thursday October 4 .

For Grade 7 and 8 Ojibwe language and land –based classes they were invited to Shawendaasowin Prevention Services to learn how to harvest a deer.

Students took turns sawing, slicing, cutting, and washing the meat. Alongside this, they were listening to cultural teachings and documenting with microphones, cameras and video cameras with the Naotkamegwanning’s community journalism trainer Karli Zschogner.

Teddy Copenace, the elementary land-based coordinator, guided them through the process, explaining the sacredness of the deer.

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Student West Ranville jumps in to document audio and video as others take turns slicing deer meat, listening to teachings of Teddy Copenace (Photo Credit: Kelsi Blackhawk)

“The main protocols that I did was that we put tobacco down before we started cutting this deer up,” he said speaking to interviewer West Ranville. “This is someone’s clan and on top of that, the Creator is the one who gave us that deer for us to survive.”

He describes how the hooves are used for pow wow regalia, use the he use the hide as a drum, for moccasins, and a jacket to keep as warm

He also explains that out of respect for the animal, the skull and antlers are left with an offering of tobacco.

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Student West Ranville jumps in to document audio and video as others take turns slicing deer meat, listening to teachings of Teddy Copenace (Photo Credit: Kelsi Blackhawk)

Teacher Roland White says he was happy to students working with their hands.

“It’s part of our culture, it’s part of who who we are, to learn about animals,” he said.

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Baibombeh students take turns cutting up deer meat and documenting (Photo Credit: Kelsi Blackhawk)

Lester Kavanaugh, the Senior Prevention Worker at Shawendaasowin Prevention Services hosted the space.  He says he got the deer after requesting community hunters to donate wild game.

“I am planning on doing is feeding the students at least once or twice a month hot lunch,” he said.

When interviewed, Sharia Yomi of Grade 12 said she would definitely do this again.

“It was a good experience,” she said. “So that our young know how to skin deer and know the teachings of our animals and spirits.”

Elders-In-Residence: Betty Tom

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Betty Tom: Faces of Naotkamegwanning Elders-in-Residence (Photo Credit: Ozaawaa Paypompee)

By: Ozaawaa Paypompee     

Betty Tom has been living at the Naotkamegwanning Elders-in-Residence for over 5 years she said.

While she was working on an eagle puzzle, she remembered her grandson in Eagle Lake does photography. She was enjoying the nice beautiful Friday sunny day. She hoped the snow would melt for Halloween and kids should be able to trick or treat in larger spaces rather than be alone far away.   

She says she hasn’t always lived in Naotkamegwanning, originally she is from Big Island First Nation. She opened up saying she was the same age as George Kakeway, who is now a member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and who spoke at the round house on Orange Shirt Day. She says they both attended St.Mary’s Residential School in Kenora. She says she finds it very hard rethink of those experiences.

“Love seeing their smiles”, says Naotkamegwanning fishing derby organizer dedicated to memorializing local resident

By: Damon Hunter

The 15th annual Whitefish Bay Fall Bass Classic was held on Oct. 6th-7th, this year in memory of the late Angela White — who sadly passed away from cancer last year.

Alana Merrick, a co-organizer of the annual fishing derby with the late White, says she has dedicated the next four years’ events in her memory.

“Angela was one of our lead organizers,” she said. “She was an avid fisherwoman”.

Angela, born in Dryden, Ontario and raised in Naotkamegwanning First Nation, was known for her work in the community including co-organizing a drug awareness walk and the Seven Grandfathers awards.

With coverage from 89.5 The Lake radio, the event attracted a large amount of participants and sponsors, including a donation from RBC Royal Bank to help fund the competition. Participants came from Northwestern Ontario, Manitoba and even Minnesota, USA.

The yearly event is completely non-profit, Merrick said, and the money made off of it is recycled for the next year’s event.

“Every cent goes to the tournament,” said Merrick. “Then we start all over again.”

Merrick said it makes her feel good hosting the event as a space for men and women of all ages and to observe the different bass species. She said the biggest unrecorded bass was 7lbs 10oz.

I love seeing their smiles and seeing their excitement.”

This year’s winners were Toowaas White and Damien Paypompee. They took first place with the heaviest catches consisting of nine smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass.

In second place, Erick Bennett and Jim Ducharme. Following in third, Dana Fast and Mike Miles.

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This year’s winners, Toowaas White and Damien Paypompee (Photo credit: Keith Merrick)

Toowas White from Naotkamegwanning, says he has been attending the Bass Classic for 14 years and won second place in 2011 with his father-in-law.

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Winners trophies (Photo credit: Keith Merrick)

Having spent much time with Angela and her family fishing, said the tournament’s dedication was deserved, considering her a “ staple at the docks and at the weigh-ins.”

“Our community had three great male/female teams compete year in and year out,” he said.”  Her passing had an affect on all the fishermen in the community”

Next year’s Fall Bass Classic is to be expected again early October.