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Sagamok Takes Ownership of Solutions to its Addictions Problems with NAAAM Launch
Posted: Nov 05, 2018

Sagamok Takes Ownership of Solutions to its Addictions Problems with NAAAM Launch

Sagamok officially begins National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Month with Community Declaration on Illegal Drugs, Rally March and Celebration    

Robert Porter, Sagamok Anishnawbek News 

Posted November 4, 2018     

Declaration of the Members of Sagamok Anishnawbek, November 3, 2018 Commitment by Community Members to Own Sagamok's Illegal Drug Problem

Sagamok community members signed a Declaration on November 3rd committing themselves to working together in addressing the community's addictions issues and walk the 3km stretch from Enji Wii Ji Gaabwitaadaying in the Fort Subdivision to the Multi-Educational Centre in community's service core. 

The Declaration of the Members of Sagamok Anishnawbek speaks to the Creator, saying that those who have signed will no longer allow the "dark problem" of illegal drugs and substances to threaten the community safety, health and security of the community. 

With the declaration, signatories commit themselves as a collective and as individual community members "to eradicate this huge and dangerous problem", calling upon them to "assist each other, our community workers, programs, Anishinabek Police Services and leadership to help end this critical crisis".

The declaration concludes in a warning made in solidarity: "anyone who is currently in the business of trafficking these harmful products to our community shall CEASE and DESIST immediately or endure the consequences". 

Gimaa Nelson Toulouse who was elected in August as Sagamok's new Chief, says that the idea for the rally came from the community. 

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing"The reason why we are gather here today actually comes from you."

He says that as he visited community members during his election campaign, the issue of addictions was a common concern he heard.  "When I did my visits this summer, you talked to me about how bad the situation is regarding drug addiction and opioids," he said to the crowd.  "You also talked about elder abuse and prescription drugs." 

Gimaa says that the rally is intended to raise awareness and provide education.  He says it's also intended to get the community to take ownership of solutions to a problem that touches the lives of every member and family.   

"This is a community problem so we need to address it as a community.  We can't just simply rely on the services and services providers and police.  We have to collectively deal with it."

He says that he wants the day's rally "to be a special day" for those who showed up and gave their commitment.  He wants them to remember it, "so that in 5 years from now, we can say 'I was there on that day', in 10 years from now, we can say 'I was there on that day' and in 20 years from now, we can say 'I was there on that day'". 

"We are going to ask everyone to sign, initial, put your mark on it.  That's your personal commitment to make sure that we use that to eradicate this huge problem.  We want to get back to a healthy community and safe community."

He invites all community members to commit themselves to the declaration by signing the document.

There are two versions of the declaration document.  One is ceremonial, measuring over 5'x7' and in the form of a giant scroll.  The other measures the size of an unfolded newspaper, in large type making its declaration and plenty of signature space below.  This one will be on display in a public location as a reminder of the signatories' commitments to themselves and each other. 

"There's lots of room for you to put your mark on it and then we're all obligated to do something about it."

Dozens of community members signed the Declaration when it was unveiled. 


It's not too late to join the community movement to work towards a safer, healthier community!

Community members who may have missed the rally march and Declaration Ceremony still have a month of opportunities to make their mark on the Declaration demonstrating their personal commitments to solutions that will see their community into a healthy and well future. 

The Declaration will be present at events scheduled throughout NAAAM's November scheduled events and activities and community members will have the opportunity to sign it. 

Gimaa Toulouse says that the rally and declaration is the result of hard work and dedication by a planning team and he gets "a little bit overwhelmed at the quality of work being done."

He is impressed with the range and quality of addictions and mental health services available through Saswin, noting the commitment of its addictions team. 

The rally's coordinator is Jennifer Lalonde, one of the Addictions Workers serving the Sagamok community through Saswin. 

Lalonde says, "I see people in different areas of their wellness journeys.  This declaration is really important for us to come together as a community to try to support people and help them to seek services and get help for themselves as well."

"It is important that we start banding together and offer ourselves in any capacity as we can because these people they are all of us and they need our love and support.  This is basically what this declaration is sharing, that we will all be working together." 

Drums beating to signal resolve of community members and its partners

It may have been a dull day, and a little chilly, but to marchers, November 3, 2018 will always be the day that they walked with their hearts together to the beat of the Biidaaban girls drum group drum to announce to the world that they have had it with illegal drugs in their community.  

Anishinabek Police Services (APS) led the march from the Fort Subdivision to the Multi-Educational Centre, followed by a vehicle carrying water and students, followed by Greg Southwind carrying Sagamok's Eagle Staff, John Nashkawa and Robear Assinewe carrying the rolled up Declaration by Sagamok Members, followed by Gimaa Nelson Toulouse, the Biidaaban Girl Singers, community members and members of Council (including Brenda Rivers, Craig Toulouse, Angus Toulouse, Lawrence Solomon) who were reared up by Sagamok's First Response vehicle.  They were followed by a long line of cars bringing Elders and other community members for whom the march might be too much to walk.  

APS also provided a general escort service staying ahead of the procession to let oncoming traffic know to expect the marchers.


Sagamok's Eagle Staff Presides

The NAAAM launch had begun earlier in the morning with a Pipe Ceremony at 10am in Enji Wii Ji Gaabwitaadaying, also known as the New Community Hall, located at 51 Star Road in Sagamok's Fort Subdivision.  

At the unveiling of the Declaration at 1pm, the story of Sagamok's Eagle Staff was told

"It is a symbol of Sagamok ... It is the instrument of our strength and power and unity of our community," says community elder, Harvey Trudeau.

Sagamok's eagle staff is made from components contributed by various members of the community at different times - from the staff wood itself to the sheath that covers it.

The components came together for the staff when it was needed by the community. 

"We had a ceremony and we assembled it," he says.  "We did what we had to do to honour the eagle that gave its life for us so that we could have this in our community so that we can all come together."

He says that every member of the community is represented in the eagle staff.  The staff's feathers, he explains, "represents 16 family groupings ... each family unit is independent of each other but when we take part in community events, we are all represented by this eagle staff so that we are all one. 

Gimaa Toulouse has previously stated intentions to ensure a more prominent presence of Sagamok's Eagle Staff at community, leadership and other events that bring the community's membership together.  


Biidaaban students contribute handmade medicine pouches and Girls Drum Group Honours Event

Sagamok's grade 4-8 elementary school students made medicine pouches "for those who want ... to protect their energy space," says Health Services Program Manager, Yolande Nashkawa.  

She says she's "proud to say that our Biidaaban students took the time and put their love and energy into making those medicine pouches that are here today and we have th medicines here today to put into those pouches."  

The four medicines were on hand next to the student's medicine pouches: cedar, sage, tobacco and sweetgrass.  

There was also a powerful medicine from Sagamok's Fall Harvest Grounds that was available.  


Margaret Toulouse shares Lightning Medicine

"One of our teachings as Anishinabek is that thunder is sacred to us and lightning is very powerful and as Anishinabek people we've always had the teachings of the Thunderbirds, Nimki.  There are many teachings that go along with the teachings of the Thurnderbirds."  - Margaret Toulouse  

Margaret says that at the Fall Harvest Event a year ago at the end of September 2017, she and her family headed up to the community's Fall Harvest Grounds that lie just east of Ritchie Falls Resort north of Massey on the Friday before the week-long event.  

There had been a lot of lightning, that evening, she says, and they found soon after they pulled into the camp that they had forgotten to bring coffee.  Hoping that they might get some at the nearby resort, Margaret and her daughter headed out and as they left the grounds, noticed a tree from which smoke was pouring close to the grounds' kitchen facilities.  

"We went up to that tree and we could see that it was burning inside.  We could feel the power of that shkode.  But we couldn't let that burn because there was dry wood all around us at the fall harvest grounds so we had to put it out."

"I said this is a sacred tree.  It was hit by lightning and you could feel that power of that fire when you were near it.  We didn't know if we could put it out or not but we were able to control it with a whole bunch of people helping us."

Margaret's children and grandchildren worked for the better part of the day hauling water in jugs to put out the burning tree that she says, "You could see the lightning all the way from the tree right to the bottom.  There were two rows of marks of the lightning." 

"We have a sacred tree that came to us," she says, and she was determined to explore all the options to put it's medicine to good use in the community.  

She says that after talking with a number of Anishinaabe knowledge holders, she appreciates the wood's use in making eagle staffs and use as talking sticks.  

"One of the things that people have shared is that years ago there was a man and woman in the community who had a rash on its head and they didn't know what was wrong with that baby.  So the man said I'm going to go look for a tree that has been hit by lightning and they bathed that baby in that water.  They made a bath for that baby with the stick and they bathed that baby and  rash went away.  It healed that baby of whatever was wrong with it."  

She also says that there were high hopes that a drum for the community could have been fashioned out of a piece of the trunk but that the two lines of lightning strike marks had made the pieces too brittle to form.  

With some recent health problems, she says that she's passed off stewardship of the tree now, having told Sagamok's CEO Alan Ozawanimke, telling him, 'I think you should look after it now.  I'm not in condition to look after a tree because it's a lot of responsibility and it's a man's responsibility to pull the tree out and look after eagle staffs.'

"So I turned it over to Alan and said from hereon, we are going to have to work together to see what we can do with it."



Addictions Services for Sagamok Members Inside and Outside the Community

Marchers arriving at the Multi-Educational Centre helped themselves to hot beverages, listening to Carol Eshkakogan speak about Benbowopka Treatment Centre, a 16-bed residential treatment program for both males and females who are 18 years of age and older seeking treatment for substance abuse.  

At Benbowopka, individuals participate in indiviindividual counseling, group education sessions, talking circles, learning relaxation techniques (yoga and drumming), learning the importance of addressing physical health (proper nutrition and exercise), and addressing spiritual health (activities and teachings). 

Benbowopka Treatment Centre is located in Blind River.  

Want to know more about Benbowopka Treatment Centre?  Visit their website here:

Sagamok community members are blessed with the wide range of Addictions Support Services that are made available to them thanks to the dedication of the Sagamok community who came together in core groups and community conversations to drive a strategy to establlish a network of supports for people struggling from addictions. 

It's also due to the team at Sagamok Naandwedjige-Gamik, who worked to establish Saswin as the community's space for Addictions, Mental Health and Cultural Services, now located in a beautiful facility in the Beaudryville subdivision at 51 Kokoko Miikan.

Fern Assinewe, Sagamok Community Wellness Director, delivered a presentation outlining addiction services available to Sagamok community members, inside and outside the community.    

Through a harm reduction approach, Saswin offers a Safe Inhalation Kit Program, Needle Exchange Program and Naloxone Kit Program.  The team also offers services for those who have gone through treatment to prevent reoccurrences by providing counselling, sharing circles and support groups, regular phone calls and home visits, as well as referrals to band services, social services, detoxification and treatment centers and medical assistance. 

Want to know more about Addictions Services available through Saswin?  Find them on our website here:


Gimaa's daughter shares her personal journey with addictions

Chief Toulouse's daughter, Renee Belleau, a member from Garden River First Nation, shared her personal story with her own addiction struggles.  

On June 22, 2011, her life changed forever.  She was driving her friend home from the Garden River Bingo on Highway 17 in her Kia Rio and seeing an oncoming vehicle in her lane, she swerved onto the soft gravel shoulder.  She was hit on an angle, with her drivers' side taking the collision. 

The driver was drunk.  

She understands that this was his third drunk driving offense and says he only got a slap on the hand in her situation, losing his license for a year.  

It changed her life forever, however.  She needed surgery on her right arm, requiring assistance in everyday living for over a year.  She was in a lot of pain and placed on a regimin of opiates, becoming depressed, leaving her house only for necessities and appointments.  

She had enough one day with her depression.  She decided she wanted off her pills so she checked herself into the detox centre in Sault Ste. Marie before going to the IRIS Centre ffered through Monarch Recovery Services in Sudbury

Renee has been clean for just over 3 years.  

The pain persists, though, from fibromyalgia and enduring nerve damage.  

Off opiates, she tried cannabis one day with her aunt, a medical marijuana user, desperate to find a painkiller that she was comfortable with.  

Not liking when she first tried cannabis when she was 15, now, "It was more natural than anything.  As soon as I had a puff of that, I was pain free." 

She has a prescription and marijuana card, smoking the herb and consuming CBD pills for a year and a half now, convinced that it is "keeping me alive" 

"I was against it myself until I needed it myself until I needed it to cope and be alive.  I haven't used opiates and it's kept me from wanting that."  

She urgest Sagamok community not to judge others, especially as it relates to members choosing to use cannabis in a medical capacity.   

Want to know more about Monarch Recovery Services?  They offer a range of addictions recovers services for both men and women! Visit their website here:




Speaking on Addictions, Public Notice is Provided Concerning Cannabis in Sagamok 

Sagamok's Community Development Manager, Tammy Manitowabi, read a Public Notice issued on November 3, 2018, concerning the application of federal and provincial legislation relating to Cannabis over Sagamok's on-reserve territory.  

This Public Notice will be covered in a separate piece by Sagamok News.  





Declaration of the Members of SagamokAnishnawbek


Creator, hear us. We are gathered here today to confirm the values that we live by to ensure the safety, health and security of our community. Today, we have come to understand that these values have been compromised threatening our children, families, community and our future. There has been an illegal infiltration of harmful drugs and substances that threaten the very core of our community, our people and especially our young people and children. We, as a community of concerned members who love and cherish our community and members will not allow this to continue. It must come to an end if we want to secure our future.

We stand here today as a collective community and voluntarily take ownership of this dark problem. We commit ourselves as a collective but also as individual members to eradicate this huge and dangerous problem. We are here to state that we shall assist each other, our community workers, programs, Anishinabek Police Services, and leadership to help end this critical crisis.

We stand together with our leadership and state that; anyone who is currently in the business of trafficking these harmful products to our community shall CEASE and DESIST immediately or endure the consequences.

On Behalf of the community of Sagamok

Chief Nelson Toulouse

November 3, 2018




VIEW VIDEO COVERAGE OF THE NAAAM DECLARATION & RALLY MARCH EVENT on November 3, 2018 with this album posted to the Members of Sagamok Anishnawbek Facebook Group! 


National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Month (NAAAM) Declaration, Rally & Celebration, November 3, 2018
Enji Wii Ji Gaabwitaadaaying Agamik, approx 1:20pm [8minutes 51seconds)

Sagamok's Eagle Staff Presides
National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Month (NAAAM) Declaration, Rally & Celebration, November 3, 2018
Enji Wii Ji Gaabwitaadaying Agamik, approx 1:10pm [3minutes 44seconds]

Girls Drum Group Honours Event
National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Month (NAAAM) Declaration, Rally & Celebration, November 3, 2018
Enji Wii Ji Gaabwitaadaaying Agamik, approx 1:30pm [10minutes 3seconds]

[5minutes 42seconds]

National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Month (NAAAM) Declaration, Rally & Celebration, November 3, 2018
Approx 2:30pm [1minutes 55seconds]

approx 3:10pm, November 3, 2018 NAAAM Rally March

NAAAM RALLY, November 3, 2018, Sagamok Multi-Educational Centre Approx 3:40pm
[6minutes 21seconds]

Community Development Manager, Tammy Manitowabi, provides an update on Cannabis in the Sagamok community with a Public Notice, Dated November 3, 2018. 
NAAAM Rally March, Declaration & Celebration, November 3, 2018 Multi-Educational Centre
[12minutes 5seconds]