Health leaders and advocates gathered at the Keepers Of The Circle Office in Kirkland Lake on September 29 for an open house event. This two part event was meant to showcase the newly renovated and completed Keepers Of The Circle office building and to host the official opening of the Mino M’Shki-ki Indigenous Health Team office.
“I am very happy and excited to see everyone who came to visit us today. This is the celebration of so much work by so many people over so many years. Our founder, the late Ann Batisse was a woman with a vision that started what we have today. What began as a one room office in 1997 with a handful of staff and volunteers has now become a nationally recognized Indigenous services hub that has helped and continues to assist so many people,” said Bertha Cormier, Executive Director of Keepers Of The Circle.
Keepers Of The Circle which is operated by the Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group (TNWSG), provides numerous services including Family Services, Childcare Services and Employment and Training Services for Indigenous people and their families in the Temiskaming District. This umbrella organization also provides health programming through Mino M’Shkiki in partnership with Beaverhouse First Nation, Matachewan First Nation and the Temiskaming Metis Community Council. Mino M’Shki-ki also includes an office location at the Temiskaming Hospital in Temiskaming Shores.
“We are all thankful to so many people that have made all this possible and we are grateful to everyone here today for joining us to celebrate the official opening of our Indigenous Health Team in Kirkland Lake,” said Sue Alton, Mino M’Shki-ki Health Director.
The opening of this new Indigenous health care office was made possible by the collaborative efforts of several organizations in the Temiskaming area in northeastern Ontario. Mino M’shki-ki, a name selected by an Elders Council translates as ‘good medicine’.
Several presenters spoke to the gathering to give their thanks and messages of support including Carole McBride, President of the National Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) who represents Keepers Of The Circle at the national level.
“I am very proud of all the accomplishments everyone has achieved here over the years. It is very heart warming and satisfying to know of all of the people and families we have helped over the years through this organization,” commented McBride.
The event was also led by Keepers Of The Circle Board Of Directors Amanda Julien, Kara Boucher, Brianna Moore, Kelly McBride, Nancy Luna and Bertha Cormier. Also in attendance were the Council of Wisdom Keepers who guide the organization which includes Elders Mario Batisse, Sally Susan Martel-Brown, Tom and Freda Wabie, Vina Hendrix, Liliane Ethier and Marilyn Chevrier-Wills.
“It is very humbling to see the results of all the work my wife Anne and everyone she worked with turning into all these services that help so many people. It is very emotional and heart warming to hear all the good things everyone has to say and to know that her legacy has meant so much to so many people,” said Elder Mario Batisse, in remembering his late wife Anne Batisse who passed away on March 20, 2020.
The event also included traditional performances by a hand drum group comprised of the support staff of Keepers of the Circle and Mino M’Shki-ki.
First Nation leaders were also present at the event to show their support.
“All the programs and services offered here provides a step in the right direction for our people, especially in light of the commemoration of the National Day Of Truth And Reconciliation. It is a pleasure to be here today and to see such a wonderful space that allows Indigenous people to feel welcomed, comfortable and cared for,” said Chief Wayne Wabie, Beaverhouse First Nation.
Matachewan First Nation leadership was also represented at the event.
“The work that has been done here and all the services that are offered shows that as First Nations working together we are stronger. It reminds all of us that when we work together for our people, we can make life better for everyone,” said Councillor Tom Fox, Matachewan First Nation.
Municipal representatives were also on hand to show their support.
“I am amazed at the amount of programs and services that are offered here. It’s a beautiful facility that offers a lot of different avenues for Indigenous people to move forward and it is a great addition to our community,” said Kirkland Lake Mayor Pat Keily.
Presentations on programs and services offered by Keepers of the Circle and Mino M’Shki-ki were provided by Rachel Lachance, Food Forest Program; Mike Degagne, Trades, Training Program; Lisa Sloan, Daycare Supervisor;
Chelsea Daley, Brianna Julien and Nicole Renaud for Family Support And Cultural Programming; Kelly Lamontagne, Employment and Training and Kathy Lajeunesse and Deanna Baker with the Cultural Confidence and Competence
Pre Employment Training program.