Elders’ Society forming on reserve

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Sharon Pekok, the recreation director with K'atlodeeche First Nation, stands in front of a building on the Hay River Reserve which will be used as the home of a KFN Elders' Society, which is in the process of being created.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Sharon Pekok, the recreation director with K’atlodeeche First Nation, stands in front of a building on the Hay River Reserve which will be used as the home of a KFN Elders’ Society, which is in the process of being created.

An initiative is underway to create a K’atlodeeche First Nation Elders’ Society.

The effort is being guided by Sharon Pekok, the recreation director with the First Nation, who said discussion about forming such a group has been ongoing for a couple of years.

There’s never been such an organization for elders in the First Nation, she said. “This is new.”

She said there has been an elders’ council, which is used for consultations by the band council and at various meetings.

However, a KFN Elders’ Society would be different.

It would be similar to the Hay River Seniors’ Society, and the idea is that it will also be affiliated with the NWT Seniors’ Society.

“The society provides information, acts as a resource and support for seniors and elders across the NWT,” states the NWT Seniors’ Society website. “The society is the only voluntary agency representing the individual and collective interests of all seniors and elders in the NWT. You may be a voting member of the NWT Seniors’ Society when you reach 50 years of age.”

“So we’re trying to interact, get them all connected, so we can work together,” said Pekok, adding it is hoped the KFN Elders’ Society can be formed by this spring.

The planned society already has a building in which to operate as an Elders’ Centre.

Pekok said the building used to be called the Sharing Lodge, and was used for homecare, counselling and by the community health representative.

Those services moved to a new wellness centre in 2013.

“So this building was empty,” said Pekok. “They were trying to figure out what to do with it, and then they decided to use it as an Elders’ Centre so the elders could come and meet and interact with each other and also the community.”

She added the centre will also get elders out of isolation.

The building was empty for a year before KFN decided to renovate it. Those renovations removed the walls of offices and created a largely open space inside the building.

“They made it one big area,” said Pekok.

The building is ready for use, and is already being used for meetings and the occasional youth gathering.

An Elders’ Society would be for KFN members aged 55 and older.

“There are quite a few of them,” said Pekok. “I’d say there are maybe 50. There might be even more.”

The first meeting to discuss the idea of forming an Elders’ Society attracted 15 people.

“It was actually pretty good,” said Pekok.

Another organizational meeting will probably take place this month.

An Elders’ Society would be able to write proposals to access funding for projects and to help run the building.

“Right now, I’m working with them just to help them get started, and we also have a couple of people on the reserve that are working toward getting them registered as a society,” said Pekok.

The plan is to also seek charitable organization status from the federal government.

Rosa Sabourin, an elder on the Hay River Reserve, thinks that forming a KFN Elders’ Society is a good idea.

“We wanted to be doing this for quite a while and just putting it off,” she said.

Sabourin said having such a society would be, among other things, a good way to raise funds for the annual religious pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne in Alberta.

She also sees an Elders’ Society as a way to promote culture.

“Actually, going along down the road, we’re looking at teaching the young kids how to do beadwork and whatever we can,” she said.

Pekok also believes an Elders’ Society would be a good way to share culture, especially by having elders interact with others and hearing the South Slavey language spoken.

“For us younger people, we need to interact so we know our history and the stories that are shared,” she said.

Pekok said the Elders’ Centre will also be a place for community health and other government agencies to make presentations.

In fact, she said the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment did a presentation on Feb. 19 on funding available for things that may be of interest to elders, such as crafts and tourism.

Pekok said she is basically trying to get elders used to what an Elders’ Society is and what it can do, because there’s never before been one on the Hay River Reserve.

“My role right now is just to assist them in getting up and running, and then just kind of steer them in the right direction and also help them with whatever activities or functions they would like to have,” she said. “It will give them some idea how to go about doing that.”

-Paul Bickford