Max and Abe Kakepetum perform at NAN's Embrace Life forum Thursday at St. Paul's United Church.
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One of the biggest challenges Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities face is the loss of youth to suicide, says Deputy Chief Goyce Kakegamic.
Since 1987, Kakegamic said they have lost more than 465 youth to suicide. That fact triggered NAN to organize a two-day Embrace Life forum to empower youth and families.
The forum, held at St. Paul’s United Church Thursday and Friday, included a variety of workshops to help First Nations develop life skills and strategies for healing.
Kakegamic said the forum was not about assessing blame but looking at ways to come together and come up with solutions to the issue, like improving education and recreation opportunities.
But the foundation of any society is a home, said Kakegamic.
“I think this is the thrust of it. What can we do as parents? What can we do as a community? I believe the love of a parent, the love of a community is more powerful in healing the broken spirit than any program could ever provide,” he said.
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The workshops and story-sharing is a way for people to learn from each other. Working in solitude is not the solution, Kakegamic said.
The workshops covered topics like improving parenting skills, healthy meal preparation, teaching traditional wisdom and culture and providing family counseling.
Pastor Glen Wesley of Constance Lake First Nation and Slate Falls First Nation Chief Lorraine Crane spoke Thursday afternoon about growing up without a father or mother.
Crane spoke about her personal experience and said it’s important to share each other’s stories.
“People need to hear our stories. For me, I think it’s a way of helping. If we’re able to tell our story, we’ll be able to help somebody. We’ll be able to help our kids,” she said.
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