Tikinagan Annual Chiefs Assembly 2018

Posted: September 19th, 2018

It’s August and it’s that time of year again- the annual chiefs assembly. It’s a cool week in Fort Severn First Nation, a Cree community celebrated for its polar bears, beautiful coast line off Hudson’s Bay and being the northern most community in Ontario. And this week, Fort Severn is hosting the Tikinagan annual chiefs assembly. This is a two-day meeting where leadership for Tikinagan Chief and Family Services come together to get updates on the agency’s activities and give direction for the year to come.

This year, 25 delegates congregate in Fort Severn on Tuesday, August 28. Flights arrive throughout the afternoon and early evening, and delegates are brought to Wasayo Cree Nation School where they are greeted by Tikinagan staff. Dinner, and all meals provided for the event, are prepared by Fort Severn community members and provided in the cafeteria area. After everyone has a restful evening, they adjourn the next morning to start the two-day meeting held in the school gym.

The school gym is set up with a large rectangular semi-circle in the centre where the delegates, presenters and meeting chair sit. There is a registration table at the front, seating for the Board of Directors, Elders Council and Youth Council, and seating for support staff and community members around the room. The assembly’s chair is Eno Chapman, who has a wealth of experience chairing these annual meetings. Translation is also available, with technology support from Wawatay and translators John Cutfeet and Agnes Chapman providing the simultaneous translation in Ojicree/English.

During the first morning, on Wednesday, August 29, delegates finish breakfast and take to their seats in the gymnasium. The first order of business is all about establishing the meeting. After opening prayer by Elder Stanley Thomas, Assembly Chair Eno Chapman is adopted into his role with the first resolution. Soon after, the agenda is reviewed and welcoming remarks are made by Fort Severn’s Deputy Chief Dennis Bluecoat, NAN Deputy Grand Chief Walter Naveau, Board co-chair Sonny Gagnon.

After welcoming remarks, Tikinagan’s Board of Director’s chair Lorraine Crane presents her annual update, followed by Executive Director Thelma Morris.

“Our Annual Report is different than non-Indigenous agencies. It’s not the statistics, numbers or corporate business that we focus on but the positive outcomes we see in child and family services,” reads Lorraine Crane, Board Chair, from her written report. “Tikinagan is your agency. That is what we believe and that is what we want to live up to every day.”

The report from the Executive Director, Thelma Morris, highlights some of notable changes this past year, such as the federal government’s announcement of increased prevention funding and how this will positively impact Tikinagan.

“Prevention better suits the work we do under the Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin service model. Before this increased funding, we had not been adequately funded to carry out our vision and our traditional approach to child and family services” Morris says. “We want to work towards more prevention work and supportive services for our families. This is the Mamow way.”

Board member Chris Kakegamic then talks to the delegates about how Tikinagan is “your agency.” This is a powerful message that reminds Chiefs, proxies and community members that Tikinagan is not an outside agency but is run by First Nations, built on community values and governed by the 30 First Nations’ leadership.

Following coffee break, the Director of Services presents Service Highlights from this last year. This is followed up with an update on last year’s Resolutions and the presentation of the financial audit. After lunch, delegates return for an in-camera session to discuss protecting First Nations’ inherent rights and responsibilities for families. Afterwards is an update from Nishnawbe Aski Nation discussing developments in Aboriginal child welfare. The day is adjourned, and delegates, staff and guests enjoy dinner at the coast of Hudson Bay. Dinner includes dumpling soup, goose, caribou, fish, a hamburger/hotdog barbeque and many dishes prepared over the fire. Everyone enjoys trying a bit of everything and many take the opportunity to go visit the coast, collect sea shells and take in the natural beauty.

The second day of the meeting starts bright and early for breakfast at 8 a.m.. Following registration, Mr. Chapman calls the meeting to order and delegates participate in a Chiefs’ Forum, where they were free to speak on any issues and concerns. The meeting wraps up with resolutions and Awards of Recognition.

Tikinagan recognizes staff who have been with the agency for landmark years (10, 15, 20, 25 & 30) and honour Director of Finance and Administration Clara Young who celebrated 25 years with Tikinagan and Assistant Director of Services Judy Angeconeb who celebrated 30 years with Tikinagan. Tikinagan employs approximately 470 people, with 167 who have been employed by the agency for five years or more. Congratulations to all staff for celebrating milestones this past year!

After the staff recognition presentation, Tikinagan present the foster parent awards. Each year, the agency selects one or two foster families who have shown much dedication in the host community. This year, we recognized two foster parents from Fort Severn. Thank you and congratulations to Lydia Matthews and Jesse Matthews. These foster parents have provided loving foster care and stable homes for many children over the years and exemplify the qualities we look for in our foster homes. They have made an incredible difference in the lives of many children.

Next,, the Oneesh Tam Key award is presented. Each year, Tikinagan presents this award to someone who has made outstanding contributions to Tikinagan’s development. Oneesh Tam Key means “someone who sits in the front of a boat or canoe guiding the direction. Others follow the direction of the one sitting in the front.” This year’s recipient was Chief Donny Morris from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug. Chief Morris was selected to receive this award because of his passion for and support of Tikinagan, Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin and helping children and families. He is a strong supporter of the values Tikinagan espouses and recognizes that the answers lie in the community.

The meeting comes to a close, with closing remarks from the Elders Council, the Youth Council and Fort Severn Chief Paul Burke; a prayer from an Elder; and lastly adjournment from Mr.Chapman.

“We had another successful Annual Chief’s Assembly. Many staff and community members worked tirelessly to organize this meeting and on behalf of the board and management we thank each and every one of you,” says Thelma Morris, Executive Director. “This year we were hosted and welcomed by the community of Fort Severn First Nation. The community was so welcoming and we deeply appreciate the hard work that went into not just organizing the event but also the catering, accommodations and genuine welcoming spirit we all felt. Meegwetch!”

Next year’s meeting will be held in Keewaywin First Nation.