The Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) has concluded the 3-day Kanawenimitisoowin Summit: Honouring Community Voices, in Thunder Bay, which occurred from June 7 to 9. Delegates included a cross section of Elders, Chiefs, Health Directors, regional leaders and front-line workers from across SLFHNA’s service area, which includes 33 First Nation communities. The Summit’s Anishinabe title, Kanawenimitisoowin, translates to “Looking After Ourselves in Our Own Way.”
“For decades now, we’ve had access to the money for health care, and been given prescribed activities to design and provide health services. But we’ve never had the control we need to create an Anishinabe health system for our people. Our work here at the Summit is about getting that control.”
– James Morris, CEO and President, SLFNHA
The Summit served as a staging area for future engagement activities with Sioux Lookout area First Nation communities, which range in size from a few hundred to a few thousand. These efforts are to get as much input and commitment from communities about how they want health care designed, accessed and provided. The Summit theme also centred on how the Anishinabe people must assert more control over the health system, to address the systemic issues that have created a vast gap is health equity between Indigenous Peoples and the average Canadian.
One notable guest speaker was Donna Galbreath, from the Southcentral Foundation based in Anchorage, Alaska, who spoke about their Nuka System of Care, which is a relationship-based, customer-owned approach to transforming health care, improving outcomes and reducing costs.
Other speakers included Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Victor Linklater and Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh of Treaty #3. Elders from the region were also present to share their knowledge and experiences with attendees. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh offered prayers to bless delegates and their discussions, at the beginning and end of each day.
At the conclusion of the Summit, all delegates worked together on a Statement to guide next steps. An excerpt reads:
We the people, come together in unity to honour community voices to take control of our health care system by fundamentally changing and transforming the way things are done. We will move forward in developing a health care system that will work for our people based on our culture and values. We come together as Anishinabe people in collaboration as we design our destiny and define the steps along the way. We will continue to assert our inherent and Treaty rights to look after the health of our people.
“I share the vision my late husband, Josias Fiddler, had for better health services for the region, and the advocacy that’s ongoing since the Hunger Strike of ’88. Any direction from this gathering should be taken seriously to move forward in a good way.”
– Teri Fiddler, Elder, Sandy Lake First Nation
“I appreciate the opportunity to share my personal Health Transformation journey, and I pray that it has helped someone. In the Summit, we have heard about the challenges of accessibility, and lack of services in our communities. I believe that in time, we can move the yardstick to improve the health outcomes of our people.”
– Victor H. Linklater, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief
Guest presentations and recordings of the Summit are available the SLFNHA website at https://www.slfnha.com/kanawenimitisoowin-summit.
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