The Drug Class Blog

Nov 22

Georgia's Journal

November 22, 2013 Georgia McCusker

I remember when Rand first approached me with coming to Yellowknife for a week when I first began my practicum with him and my initial feeling was elation. How exciting, a trip to the North West Territories, a place which I previously knew very little about.

A few weeks before we departed, Rand sent me the itinerary, with an accompanying warning regarding exhaustion, and while I was reading through this I laughed and wondered if he had remembered what it was like to be a poor university student who had to take class, do practicum and work! I was wrong. What followed was an exhausting albeit amazing, rewarding and thrilling experience.

Our days began long before the sun stretched its fiery arms across the sky and ended long after the moon had sprinkled her stars across the inky canvass of night. I think that the most treasured and valued moments I will take away from this journey were the strong, human connections I made with people, the education and knowledge I was able to learn, share and participate in, the realization of important issues surrounding the communities of Yellowknife and Hay River, as well as the solid and stunning beauty of the land and the relationship the people had with it.

Something I realized very quickly upon arrival into Yellowknife was the earnest, loving, almost altruistic way in which the people engaged with you. We were greeted at the airport by both Byrne and Gary, the two people who chauffeured us around the majority of the time and who took us immediately to the nearest Tim Hortons as it was 10:00pm and apparently nothing else was open for supper!

Then it was off to our hotel for an interesting adventure that involved; one room, one bed, two people, one large cot, and no elevator. What I assumed would be ensuing chaos actually turned into finding the hotel clerk willing to help carry the cot to our third floor room, a stranger witnessing this struggle and jumping in to help and the collective teamwork to get the extra bed all the way up the staircase. This was my first taste of the Yellowknife hospitality I would experience for the next three days.

Following this initial experience, I found that no matter where we travelled, whether it be to elementary schools, high schools, First Nations communities, wellness centers, or community centers, people were always eager to help, learn and participate.

I watched a group of 250 young children listen, completely engrossed, to Rand Teed speak for an hour on drug education followed by Sadie Bell who told her personal story. I watched as they actively listened, asked engaging and intelligent questions, and then excitedly rally together to do a Sober March through downtown Yellowknife, equipped with homemade anti-drug/alcohol signs.

On one particular night we were invited to a First Nations community feast in the N’Dilo community. There were chili, buns, salad, pizza, fruit salad and coffee to satiate us followed by Rand and Sadie giving their presentations and afterwards a traditional Drum Dance. At this Drum Dance, I witness a small Dene boy, probably no more than two, dancing and drumming along with the other First Nations men. It was one of the most uncomplicated, captivating, and delightful showings, a sort of “free display”, of fun I had ever seen. This child, free from any abuse, trauma, pain, or neglect, ran wherever and whenever he pleased, drummed with the other men when he pleased, laughed when he pleased, and danced when he pleased. It was pure and simple joy. I also watched as the community participated in dancing for the drummers, the young and the old, as a collective, danced for themselves and each other. I have never felt so connected and a part of a people as I did that evening.

Overall, I have developed a deep appreciation and respect for the people here in Yellowknife and Hay River. The people here as well as Rand have provided me with this beautiful, beneficial and humbling opportunity to immerse myself within a different culture with strong values in regards to relationships with other human beings, strong connection to the land and their history and a deep yearning to heal their community from all the damage that drugs and alcohol can inflict.

Everyone person I met along my journey had been touched by drugs and alcohol in one way or another which resulted in a passion to help others find a way out. That was the overall theme of the trip – to provide education around drugs and alcohol and to carry a message of hope and love – a way out of the abyss.

I am so incredibly grateful to have been given this invaluable opportunity to share my story with so many people and to make heartfelt, tears-shed, warmth-spread connections.

What do you think?

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