From left to right: Elders Evelyn Linklater, Florence Highway, Barb Badger, Frank Badger and Irene Sharp
To help guide the Community Clinic’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, our Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) helps the CHSA staff by providing guidance and feedback on SCC programs, services, and policies that impact our Indigenous patients. The five Elders making up our Council are determined to help heal indigenous and non-indigenous relations and work tirelessly to do so—both with the Community Clinic and within the community at large. We are both honoured and fortunate to receive their guidance, blessing, and support. Each Elder has overcome many personal obstacles to get to where they are today and you can learn about their personal journeys buy clicking on their names below.
My life began in Pelican Narrows but, at the age of eight, I was taken away by plane to the nearest residential school. My time there was hard—I was scared and lonely and did not feel the love a child should feel because of the way I and others were treated and talked to. At fourteen, I returned to Pelican but left at seventeen when my granny passed away. It was her guidance and her teaching of living off the land that saved me in my teen years. After taking a nurses’ aid course, I worked in La Pas and later found my way to Saskatoon.
I struggled with alcohol and drug addiction the two years following the loss of my son. The words that I heard in residential school came back to haunt me. I knew I needed help and my time in the Prince Albert Psychiatric Ward was the beginning of my healing journey.
Now, I am a community volunteer and Elder. Since I was diagnosed with diabetes, it has been my mission to raise awareness about the disease in the Indigenous community. I participated in two cross-Canada biking treks with Police Peddling for Diabetes with my friend and Diabetes educator partner Florence Highway. I want to do everything I can to educate our young people on healthy eating and choices so they can avoid the disease. I am also Peer Leader with the Live Well with Chronic Conditions Program, a volunteer with SWITCH and a participant in the Clinic’s Kohkums group which is dear to my heart as it means “everybody’s grandmother”.
I have been a patient at the Westside Clinic for over 20 years and I feel welcomed there. I feel a connection with the indigenous staff and there is also an outreach worker there that I can speak to in Cree. Because I have lots of family and friends that go there, it feels like a community centre as well as a health clinic.
Like Evelyn, my childhood began in Pelican Narrows. I was surrounded by the warmth and security of my family and our entire community. But at the age of nine, some strangers showed up and took my sister and me to residential school. My mother didn’t know what was happening because she didn’t speak English. At my new “home”, I was introduced to a religion and way of life that was completely foreign to me and the actions and words of my “caregivers” left me feeling worthless. Like Evelyn, the two summer months when I returned to Pelican is what kept me going for the rest of the year and this was of great comfort to me.
I completed my high school in Prince Albert, and although I struggled with addictions and became lost to the streets in my early adult years, I completed the U of R Social Work (off campus) program at age 27.
I now consider Saskatoon my home and use my Social Work background, communication skills and friendliness to reach out to the clients that come to the Westside Clinic by listening and offering advice. I also help out at Westside by helping with client surveys in the waiting room. This work, my work as a Diabetes educator, and my beadwork all fill voids in my life that together make me feel whole and with purpose.
The actions and staff of the Westside Clinic give us hope. I feel that, together, we are looking forward to a better, healthier tomorrow.
I consider Beardys and Okemasis my primary homes although I have been living on and off in Saskatoon for the past 41 years. I was a single parent who had lived through residential school as a child, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual and physical abuse, racism, poverty, diabetes, cancer and heart problems. I have also been personally affected by the loss of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Frank and I lost all of our children in a tragic car accident 23 years ago. I am still trying to lead a drug and alcohol free lifestyle.
Besides being a past employee of the Westside Community Clinic, I have worked at a northern hospital where I provided Cree-English translation for patients and staff. My abilities as a facilitator and counsellor did not come from a textbook but from my life experiences. I share my knowledge and experiences to show clients that they are not alone– treating others with compassion, humor and respect to show them that they matter. Because of this, I am seen as an Elder by the community and this is a true honour. It is a title that is earned through a journey of learning humbleness, showing respect and participating in tobacco offerings and ceremonies. For some that journey takes a lifetime and for some it is never reached.
I am humbled to be on the Clinic’s Indigenous Advisors Committee as it allows me to do my part to help clientele as they are on their healing journey. Westside gives those who are struggling a place where they can go and be treated with dignity. It’s a place where we can work together, side by side, regardless of our nationality and heal.
I was born in Mistawasis but also consider Beardys and Okemasis my home. I spent 10 years in residential school and it greatly affected my life. Then, and for years following, I experienced alcoholism, family violence, and sexual, physical, spiritual and emotional abuse. I turned my life around by becoming sober (now for 39 years) and achieving by B.Ed. and becoming a teacher. Although I retired from teaching 3 years ago, I have become a life experience helper to others as they begin their healing journey. I am considered an Elder now as I have turned my life around from alcoholism, poverty and unemployment and I have become a productive member in our society. I have learned and continue to speak my native language of Cree. Continuous help from other Elders has given me strength and humbleness that I use daily. It is an honour to be taken seriously when you are given the title of “Elder” and humor is also a big factor in this role.
I believe reconciliation is happening. The Westside Clinic is taking positive steps to learn the proper protocols of reaching out to First Nations and other nationalities. The staff treats everyone with respect and dignity. When improving their services, they involve clientele and the community at large. Their actions inform and teach non-native people to respect each other and to not look down on an individual’s struggles. We show that we can work together to better the community we call home—Saskatoon!
I call Green Lake my home because, at 6 months old, that is where my mother left me with my widowed kokum (grandmother) who raised me. From her, I learned how to live from the land—how to pick berries and snare rabbits. At the age of 8 though, I was taken from my kokum and placed in foster care. At 14, my loneliness and homesickness became unbearable and I ran back to my kokum. At that point, kokum decided to rent a home in Meadow Lake to give my life stability.
Later in life, my four children were taken from me by Social Services because I was in an abusive relationship. My youngest was 2 months at the time. I am grateful to have reconnected with one son and a daughter since then.
My life has been a journey of overcoming discrimination, physical and sexual abuse. I am proud to say that the alcohol that I turned to is in my distant past.
My decision to serve as a Metis Elder came after praying for guidance from the creator who sent me a sign while driving through the presence of two eagles flying in unison and a few miles further down the road another eagle in a circle or ravens. Being an Elder is so humbling and life changing as it comes with a responsibility to teach and help others along their journey.
I have been a member of the Community Clinic’s Kokum’s Group for ten years now and presently sit on the Clinic’s Seniors Advisory Council where we review programs and services for seniors. In both of these groups, I learn so much from other elders. I am also honoured to be the Community Clinic’s Elder during their annual Blanket Exercise for staff. The Exercise is such an eye opener for so many as it teaches us about the past so that we can create a brighter future. It teaches our shared history and it is not about blaming anyone. Although I have presided over many Blanket Exercises, I still get emotional when I attend. It is very real, hands-on learning showing how we need to heal relationships. I think healing also comes from sharing our personal stories and this is why I share this story with you.