Doug Kelly with a commitment stick
Status Quo – is a noun that means the current situation or the way things are now.
Fear – is a noun that means an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Power – is a noun that means the ability to do something or act in a particular way, or the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.
Change – is a noun that means the act or instance of making or becoming different.
Courage – is a noun that means the ability to act in spite of fear or strength in the face of pain or grief.
On Tuesday, May 5, 2015, Chiefs and Health leaders gathered for a leadership forum. Our dear respected Musqueam Elder Shane Point opened our forum with words of wisdom, teaching, and encouragement. Elder Point reminded us that the first job of a leader is to make sure that our children are safe. In making certain that our children are safe, leaders must make certain that our women, the mothers of our children, are safe. Shane was humbled to receive a pair of small hand paddles in the Gathering Wisdom conference bag. He invited Chiefs and leaders to open their bags and to remove the paddles. Chiefs and leaders tapped their paddles together as Shane offered a chant and prayer.
Shane reminded us that the gift of a paddle is a high honour. When we receive a paddle, the host is inviting Chiefs to join the canoe and to paddle. Shane prayed that leaders would paddle together and make sure that our children and the mothers, our women, are safe.
After the opening courtesies, we heard from a very powerful panel. We heard first from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond the Representative for Children and Youth. Mary Ellen called upon Chiefs to provide leadership. Too many of our children are in the care of others. We need to keep our children connected to their families and cultures. This is the work of Chiefs and leaders.
Chief Charlene Belleau and Irene Johnson issued a call to action on ending violence against Aboriginal Women and Girls. Chief Charlene presented the cold facts about the violence against our women. Irene shared her powerful and compelling story of trauma, healing, and forgiveness. Chief Charlene Belleau called upon Grand Chiefs, Hereditary Chiefs, elected Chiefs, and Tribal Chiefs to join her at the front. Charlene gave the Chiefs a “Commitment” sticks. She called upon the Chiefs to work hard together to ending violence against Aboriginal Women and Girls.
Charlene explained that when we are engaged in battle to end violence against our women – we tether ourselves to the commitment stick and plant in the ground. When the battle gets tough, the commitment stick keeps us from running.
Our dear Elder and our women leaders demanded action to transform the Status Quo for our children and women. Our dear Elder and women leaders recognized the responsibilities of leaders to make sure that the children and mothers are safe. To help us, to give us strength, our Elder gave us teachings and encouragement. Our women leaders gave us a commitment stick. As tough as the battle gets, we cannot run. We must see this work to a conclusion.
The First Nations Health Council is responsible for leadership and advocacy. I accepted the gift of a commitment stick. We are in this battle to keep our children and the mothers safe.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Chair, First Nations Health Council