Friday, June 28, 2013

Survivors of Suicide and Prevention Gathering: Mixed Feelings

Circle of Life Gathering: Keep Them Alive has come and gone. We had a two day Gathering for all those affected by suicide and for those wanting to prevent suicide. The Gathering was our fourth event and our last. It was a struggle to get it done this year. The heart wasn't into it.
Seems like it works that way sometimes.

The person behind the Gathering passed away this Christmas. He was Tobasonakwut Peter Kinew. A very nice man and a very knowledgeable man. I liked him. It was Peter and my brother Donald that spoke about holding a Gathering to share about the experience of having lost someone to suicide. My cousin Sally and her Husband Ron Mcdonald were also very important in the Gathering. Sadly Ron and Sally had another loss this year and it was not meant to be for them to come to the last Gathering.

We managed to hold the event this year again at the Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Thunderbird House is great. They took hold and have been the strong supporters and helpers in hosting the event. Without them and all those volunteers the event could not have happened.

The Gathering is all about Sharing. It may not have met the needs of everyone. Still it was a good venue for support. We made sure to try and get people the opportunity to speak about their experiences. We also had kind and generous people that could offer some advice, some Teachings, some avenues and options of help.

There are many venues out there for people and professionals that want to learn about suicide and suicide prevention. Aboriginal Training & Consulting Services is one group that does training in the area. You can pay five hundred dollars to go and and learn about the risks and symptoms. I believe it is a good thing. We didn't offer that kind of knowledge. We are not equipped to do that. However, we did offer the one thing they say to learn, and that is to Listen. We did that. I think that was good. We did provide the chance to share. We also provided something that we know we have and that is empathy and compassion.

Empathy is:
|"the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this" Merriam-Webster.  

I get confused between the words empathy, sympathy and compassion. So I was lucky to find this to explain it.

"concord, understanding, rapport, affinity. Sympathy, compassion, pity, empathy all denote the tendency, practice, or capacity to share in the feelings of others, especially their distress, sorrow, or unfulfilled desires. Sympathy is the broadest of these terms, signifying a general kinship with another's feelings, no matter of what kind: in sympathy with her yearning for peace and freedom; to extend sympathy to the bereaved. Compassion implies a deep sympathy for the sorrows or troubles of another coupled to a powerful urge to alleviate the pain or distress or to remove its source: to show compassion for homeless refugees. Pity usually suggests a kindly, but sometimes condescending, sorrow aroused by the suffering or ill fortune of others, often leading to a show of mercy: tears of pity for war casualties; to have pity on a thief driven by hunger. Empathy most often refers to a vicarious participation in the emotions, ideas, or opinions of others, the ability to imagine oneself in the condition or predicament of another: empathy with those striving to improve their lives; to feel empathy with Hamlet as one watches the play."

 The crowd at the Gathering was small, which made the Gathering seem intimate. People shared with a small amount of people. The Native Addictions Council of Manitoba (NACM) came with their residents and out patients. It if they did not come to the Gathering there would have been around 30 people. The good thing with a small turnout is that the food line is quick and there is plenty of food for people.  We ended up taking food over to the local shelter to feed the people there. 

 A group of youth came from the north to take part in the Gathering. Shamattawa First Nation.  Shamattawa is a remote Indian community in Manitoba. They are no strangers to the effects of suicide.  

SHAMATTAWA -- Life in the remote community of Shamattawa, Manitoba, is so bleak. In the first five months of this year, 37 kids and 10 adults attempted suicide, and 52 others told health care workers or family they plan to kill themselves. The youngest who tried to commit suicide was only nine years old.

In 2007, 74 kids from Shamattawa, in Manitoba, attempted suicide and another 82 said they were going to do it. That accounts for more than one in four of the 600 kids living in Shamattawa, 1,200 km northeast of Winnipeg.
In the first five months of this year, 37 kids and 10 adults attempted suicide, and 52 others told health care workers or family they plan to kill themselves.
In 2007 there were 1,172 people living in Shamattawa, according to the Kitayan Community The rash of suicide attempts comes six years after the province and Ottawa declared war on the problem when three people killed themselves in just a few days.

The people who ended up sharing were so sincere and had such strong messages.  A young woman shared here experience of suicide loss and her own struggles to stay alive. It was heart wrenching story of survival.

I am relieved that the Gathering is over. I am also grateful to many people. The Gathering was hosted by three strong smart people; Shannon Buck, Chickadee Richard and Mitch Bourbonnier. All living a life of Traditional Native Spirituality. They took the event and owned it. They made sure things went well. They guided the event for the guests and the speakers. They carried the Gathering and set the tone for kindness, self-reflection and healing. 

Other people that were great are of course: Allie Turnock of Compassionate Friends Winnipeg. Jessica Burton of Klinic Winnipeg.  Wab Kinew, famous news personality, Rapper, and Traditional Man. Ron Indian Mandamin of Shoal Lake. What a beautiful and kind man. My wife Suz, said "that is a very nice man". Suz is never wrong in her appraisals of people. She can spot the phoney and the hidden mean person, where as I cannot. Cheryl James of Roseau River First Nation is a very good person. She has a Drum group that goes to help when they are asked. She is such a positive woman. Cathy Merrick of Cross Lake always supported the Gathering. She made sure that we always had knowledgeable people come out and share or Teach at the Gathering. This year was not different. She sent two people from Cross Lake, Delores Spence and Cynthia Halcrow Robinson. They came at their own expense. A nine hour trip by car from way up northern Manitoba.

There was so much to be grateful for and to be happy for. The Gathering did seem to be a good venue for those that needed it. People shared, people cried, people made contacts with others, and people heard Teachings. So what would I have mixed feelings about?

I am happy that my family and friends came through. My sisters-in-laws, my wife, my daughter, my son, my brother, and a host of people gave of themselves. My wife again took time off from work, her co-workers did the same, just to cook and help out. I burden them with the Gathering. But they don't think of it that way. And that is what makes them good people.  Lot of good people out there. 

I am a selfish bugger. No denying that. I wanted more people to come. More of my colleagues, friends and family. That didn't happen. Each year I went over to the Native organizations in Winnipeg. I mailed, emailed letters and posters to countless communities, entities and people. I telephoned some reserves and spoke to their health workers, their suicide workers.  These organizations and agencies are in the news when a tragic event occurs. Move the cameras away and where are they? 

I guess they didn't have time to take part. I invited anyone to help organize, to give input. You know almost all Native organizations ignored me. Lot of Traditional people ignored me. I passed Tobacco to a few people. They accepted the Tobacco but didn't come. 

Why did I want people there? Because Suicide to me is personal! You fucking rights its personal. I want people to know that its god damn hell to be a survivor. To hear what people go through. Not just me but a whole bunch of people. So why don't people care? Why do they only go to an event where it is one that you have to pay to attend?

You know what?  The people who spoke were just so fucking great. If you didn't learn anything from them, than you are blind and deaf even though you can see and hear.

So I have mixed feelings. Because I know people missed out. They missed out something beautiful. I wish many more could have experienced the wisdom, the sincerity, the kindness, the hurt and the hope that these good people shared.  It wasn't about me personally at the Gathering. I don't use it to stand up and say look at me, I am pitiful. I stand off to the side. I stand with people. I am not good but I am not bad either. I just try to do something, anything that might help to ease pain.

You know what?- it is too bad. Too bad, we can't support each other more. People talk a good game. But in the end, as my cousin used to say, "they are phoney, and people don't like that shit". 

Bertha Fontaine

Cheryl Alexander

Shannon Buck - Wabunnong Noodin

Annette Dugas

April Kakapentum

Barb Nicole

Leslie Dugas

Trish- Suvivor

Cheryl James

Diane - Survivor

Joe Daniels - Traditional Teacher - Sagkeeng Councilor

Ron Mandamin - Don Courchene

Wab Kinew - Shamattawa Youth

Delores - Cynthia - Cross Lake Cree - Survivors

Singers -

Steve - Mitch - Chickadee

Wab Kinew - NACM

Jackie Traverse - Artist - Activist

Linda Stevenson - Good person

Wab - Chloe

Shamattawa youth group

Leslie Dugas

Making Tobacco Ties

Mediwiwin Teacher Ron Indian Mandamin - Shoal Lake

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Addicts will mess up everytime

"An addict will always sooner or later, fuck up". That is what my friend told me quite some time ago. My friend grew up along side of gamblers. Not his family, but all those associated in his Dad's business. My friend said, that an addict will chose their addiction over everything else overtime. He has first hand knowledge as he saw gamblers, close family friends lose everything over their addiction.
An addict will rationale everything so others are to blame. Never the Addicts fault is it?

You know what else is unique to addicts?  They don't grow. At least, most of them are stuck in a certain age. Ever notice how immature an addict can be?  It is because they don't grow. They don't know how. How do you contend with the actions of an addict?

No matter what you do, you will be the bad guy. An addict looks for validation of how they want things to be. They will provoke, they will be upset, they will work themselves up into an argument with you, until they get the reaction they thrive on. They want to be the victim. Always the victim.

The sad thing is that after an argument you feel like the bad guy. You let your emotions go and you argue. Wrong thing to do. But how can you reason with insanity? An addict is insane. No one sane would give up their family for something that destroys lives. So that must be it. They must not be sane. What else could it be? You would not willing let an addiction suck the life out of your soul? Would you?

I like the idea that an addict can beat the addiction. That they can start to grow again. That joy can come back into their lives. I mean real joy. Joy in the feeling that you can love someone, something other than an addiction. I hope for that.

So it is better to think that an addict can be more than a fuck up. They can be more than a mess up. That in the end they will chose a good life rather than a sick life.

You know what it says on my Mom's epitaph says? It says "Weweni Mino Pimatisiwin"  She lived a good life.  That is what people want, to live a good life. I was glad that my Mom did live a good life.

Friday, June 14, 2013

On Being Magnanimous

Auntie Ev
Yesterday, my Auntie was interviewed on the sentencing of Lulonda Flett, the woman who set a house on fire that killed five people. One of those to die in the fire was Aunties' son Robert.

I watched in awe as my Aunt talked about the loss of her boy and the sentence.  She didn't cry out, that it was not enough time. She went on to say she will never be over the loss of her son. She didn't condemn Ms. Flett but rather my Auntie said her family is hurting as well.
You can take away a number of things from that. One she showed us what compassion is all about. She demonstrated the true nature of being Humble. She was Magnanimous (as my brother Don described her). Don had called me up and asked if I saw our Aunt on tv. I said I did. He asked did you see how humble and compassionate she was?  I said I thought she was so cool. What I meant to say that she was so caring.

Being Magnanimous is about being cool. Being caring, and not bitter. We can embrace bitterness, anger and even hate in a situation like this. No one would blame you. But to overcome that bitterness and to be able to think of others is truly remarkable. I don't know if I could do it. It would take a great effort not to wrap myself in anger and vengeful thinking. Auntie Evelyn is kind. She and my Auntie Fran remind me of my Mom.

 I know some people that could forgive Lulonda. A young woman lost her husband that night, and I am not sure if she is able to forgive. Maybe that could come in time. I think it is enough right now, just to not wish her or her family any harm.

"Lulonda Flett has been sentenced to life in prison in connection to the torching of a Winnipeg rooming house that killed five people in July 2011.
Flett was handed five life sentences — one for each case of manslaughter — but they will be served concurrently and she will be eligible for parole in five years.
Two years were knocked off her eligibility wait for time already served.
Flett pleaded guilty in October 2012 and a sentencing hearing took place earlier this year.
On Thursday, the judge said she considered all of Flett's cognitive challenges and difficulties in life. However, she also believed Flett intended to cause harm to two women in the fire, even if she didn't intend the full catastrophic consequences of her actions.
Flett left the courtroom in tears.
Evelyn Laforte’s 56-year-old son, Robert, died in the fire. She said she had mixed emotions about the verdict.
“I realize that nothing can bring my son back,” said Laforte. “So I guess the justice system has done what they can.”
She described Robert as a kind person who never had much in life.
She added she doesn’t think she’ll ever have closure.
“Any mother that loses a child knows the heartache,” said Laforte.
Five people died in the blaze on Austin Street in the city's Point Douglas neighbourhood.
There were eight people in the home at the time, including Flett's sister-in-law, Lynette Harper, who escaped unharmed.
The week before the fire, court records show Flett had been ordered by the courts to stay away from Harper.
Flett had been handed a conditional sentence on assault charges after pleading guilty to participating with another woman in a 2009 attack on Harper.
The judge said she accepted Flett was only trying to scare two women inside, but she said the evidence showed Flett was capable of seeing the risk she was taking. As a result, the judge said, a life sentence was fair and just.
Fire officials have said the blaze likely started near the front entrance, possibly on the veranda, blocking an obvious escape route. The front of the structure was engulfed when firefighters arrived.
If Flett does get parole in five years, she will always be supervised in the community as part of a life sentence."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Circle of Life Gathering: June 25, 26,2013

Two Days dedicated to preserving life from suicide
Everyone WELCOME to this OPEN event.
Day One: 8:30 a.m. Living through Traditional Teachings. Best practices for
suicide prevention.
Day Two: 8:30 a.m. Sharing the Lives of Our loves passed. Keeping their
Memories alive by sharing about them. Keeping them Alive.
Open Sharing Circle. Everyone encouraged to participate.
Feast – Give-a-Way Ceremony.
“Stick Around, We Love You, You Make a Difference.”
Information & Craft Booths Welcome. No Fees
If you would like to take part or be a speaker or helper;
Please call Sasha at 204-940-4240 or Steve at 204-470-5207.
A partial cost recovery event. Donations appreciated.
Thunderbird House
Circle of Life Gathering:
Keep Them Alive
Survivors of Suicide Sharing Their Loved Ones

June 25, 26, 2013 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Elders, Speakers, Helpers: David Blacksmith (Cross
Lake Elder, Sundance Chief), Barbara Nepinak (Elder),
Clarence Nepinak (Elder), Ron Indian Mandamin (Shoal
Lake Midewiwin Teacher) Helga Cheesequay, Cynthia
Robinson Halcrow (Survivor), Deloris Spence (Cross
Lake), Chickadee Richards (Sandy Bay Elder), Mitch
Bourbonnier, Gladys Marinko, Cheryl James (Roseau
River), Jessica Burton (SPEAK-Klinic), Sheryl Blacksmith
(Swan Lake), Don Courchene (Sagkeeng), Allie
Turnock (Compassionate Friends), Tammy Chistensen
(Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad), Kevin Kipling
(MNFERC), Cliff Starr (Sagkeeng), Bertha Fontaine
(Native Addictions Council of Manitoba), Wab Kinew,
Jackie Traverse, More to be announced.
"How To Save A Life"
Step one – you say, "We need to talk."
He walks, you say, "Sit down. It's just a talk."
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
And you begin to wonder why you came
Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Knowledge Keeper and Knowledge Giver

There are many beautiful things in the world. Of those beautiful things are youth. How beautiful everything and everyone is when they are yo...