The Wise Old Warriors

By Jan Sanders

We are seven elders and friends who have worked together over the last 20 years on initiatives related to personal growth, healing, governance and the language, history and cultural teachings of the Ojibwe (or Chippewa) people, the largest indigenous group in Canada.

We are called Wise Old Warriors (WOW). We operate individually or as a group in the roles of elders, consultants and educators.  Formally, we operate through the business of PEOPLEnergy. 

Some of us worked at the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the 1980s when it began collaborating with the Rama First Nation, a Chippewa reservation in Ontario, Canada. The programmes included planning and training community leaders. We did a two-year Living Effectively in Rama Now (LERN) program in 1983. which included kitchen dialogue, Community Planning Sessions and training in the Technology of Participation.

Several of us have worked with survivors of the Indian Residential Schools both professionally and as  family members. One programme we developed is the “Seven Generations Walk” to help  people become aware of the effects of the schools on native families. The sessions we did with Sandy is a new approach we plan to replicate. 

Some of our other programmes include a Community Healing Model and a Restorative Justice Program. We have developed Train the trainer programs to extend them to other First Nations (Indian reservations). We have designed curriculum and songs for teaching the Ojibwe language, which are being used by community services and school board of the local Simcoe county

The following are the WOW team members:

Lorraine McRae, Niigaan Enaabid (One Who Looks Ahead): She served as Chief of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation from 1994 to 2000.  She graduated as a Native Language Instructor from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and has developed primary, junior and intermediate Ojibwe Language curriculum for the Simcoe County Board of Education. 

Janet Sanders: She founded WOW and PEOPLEnergy. She served as community facilitator for Rama First Nation for over 10 years. She has supported the Ojibwe language, history and culture through facilitating initiatives including the cultural design of the casino art work, language books, songs and tapes, and the development and operation of Kendaaswin Elementary School.

Sandy Reilly: She sits as Elder for Ernestine's Women's Shelter, Biminaawzogin Regional Aboriginal Women's Circle and Endaad Native Housing. She helped develop the Nookmis Mishoomis Book for teaching young parents and their infants the Ojibwe language through drums, songs and stories. The booklet is still being used today. She is a speaker, artist and drum maker.

Christine Douglas: She is a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. She served as the Clinical Manager of Rama Community and Social Services for 14 years and helped develop and implement the community restorative justice process known as Biidaaban /The Mnjikaning Community Healing Model. She has helped the Rama community in the area of Strategic Planning.

Mark Douglas Biidaanakwad (Cloud Approaching): He is a Fish Fence Guardian and Storyteller from Mnjikaning (Rama) First Nation and a member of the Loon Clan. He has been honoured with Eagle feathers for his work in relating to others the history of the Anishanaabe (Chippewa) people , their system of governance, the teachings of the clans and other stories from his childhood and life.

Barbara Miller: She has worked as a chef and in the transportation field. She served on the Endaad Native Housing board of directors. She supported native women through conferences and drum making. She is an elder for Orillia Native Women’s Group and Ernestine’s Women Shelter. She is a founding member of Biminaawzogin Regional Aboriginal Women's Circle

Richard Sims: He has spent a life-time weaving human potentials with social change. He was a staff member of the Ecumenical Institute and Institute of Cultural Affairs for 25 years. He currently resides and writes from Orillia, Ontario. He continues to travel internationally, helping facilitate seminars on Social Artistry Leadership and volunteering with WOW group.

Merle Assance-Beedie Waas nodaa-kwe (Northern Lights Woman): Now deceased, she was a WOW founding member. She devoted her life to volunteer work within the Aboriginal community of the southern Georgian Bay region and throughout the province of Ontario. She helped plan a number of initiatives focused on building healthy communities for First Nation, Métis and Inuit people.

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