First Wellness Conference creates health network

First Wellness Conference creates health network
Therapist Rhonda Miller draws on the interactive “Art Wall” during an expressive art workshop geared for youth at the NWT Wellness Conference.Photo: Simone Goudreau.

Yellowknife was full of talk about energy therapy, traditional plant medicine, reiki and yoga this past weekend to usher in the Northwest Territories’ first wellness conference.

The NWT Wellness Conference aimed to educate the general public on all health and wellness options available in the North, as well as create connections between practitioners of different health modalities, Sylvie Francoeur, conference co-ordinator, told The Journal.

A volunteer-based, “community driven initiative,” the conference was also about celebrating and promoting Northern wellness resources.

“Many of us think we need to go down south to get well, but the energy, the talent, the expertise, it’s right here and we need to take more advantage of that, be aware of that,” Francoeur said.

A trade show of local exhibitors, various demonstrations and workshops, panel discussions and contests were all a part of the weekend-long conference that took place at the Baker Centre and Sir John Franklin School.

Henri McKinnon of BC-based Insight Counselling and Training Inc., a professional in the development of the cosmic self and spiritual healing, was the conference’s keynote speaker.

Workshops included introductions to Chinese medicine, personal fitness training and breast health, among other topics.

There was also a focus throughout the conference on the Aboriginal perspective when it comes to injury, recovery and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“There is so much to be found in traditional Aboriginal culture in regards to wellness and healing and our natural resilience to facing illness,” Francoeur said. “Here in the North especially, that should be at the forefront of these dialogues.”

Dene elder Be’sha Blondin led the conference’s opening prayer and ran a workshop on holistic healthy living, the “Dene Way” and the healing properties of plants.

“They (Dene elders) said things will change by working and sharing with each other to create wellness to strengthen the people, and to build the community and the nation,” Blondin, a healer and environmentalist, stated in a December press release.

“It is everybody’s responsibility to work together to help create a wellness plan on every level. We need to make funding and resources available…for helping to implement these wellness plans,” she said.

The conference also featured a panel on Aboriginal wellness with speakers Della Green, Paul Andrews, Leon Erasmus and Sayiz Catholique.

The idea for a NWT wellness conference has been around for years, Francoeur said. The steering committee decided it was time to stop talking about it and make something happen.

“I think people are looking to take charge of their own health and wellness in new ways and this will speak to that.”

The conference will hopefully “plant a seed with the community,” Francoeur said, and volunteers hope to see the conference come back next year.

The weekend events were supported by the Sacred Circle Project, the Native Women’s Association of the NWT, the City of Yellowknife and Conseil de developpement économqiue des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CDÉTNO).

Weekend passes were $20 with all profits going towards BETTY House, an up-and-coming transitional home for homeless women in Yellowknife.

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