On Thursday, October 26 three representatives from the Vancouver DUDES Club, Frank Cohn (Program Director), Sandy Lambert (Elder and External Liaison), and Jason Fitzpatrick (UNBC Placement Student) arrived in Fort St. John. The night was spent preparing presentations and mulling over the agenda for the retreat taking place at Cameron Lake in West Moberly over the next few days.
The next day, the DUDES Club Team drove to Chetwynd for a luncheon meeting with the organizer of the retreat Patricia Hoard, (Health Manager for West Moberly First Nation), and the support team for the retreat. The lunch was an opportunity to get acquainted and prepare for the weekend. Then it was back to the hotel for a much-needed nap and a bit more work.
Later that day the group gathered at School District 60’s Outdoor Education Center located on Cameron Lake. Introductions and an offering of tobacco to Elder George Desjarlais established a welcoming atmosphere. Elder George Desjarlais conducted an opening circle that welcomed folks and also recognized the Dunne-Za and Cree Territories. Elder George Desjarlais extended the local hospitality by cooking a feast of chili for the retreat participants. The atmosphere was open and friendly as the group participated in stories around the campfire, card games and conversation. The men concluded the night by laying out their bedroles in the bunkhouse.
The next morning started bright and early with a hearty serving of eggs, sausage and bacon prepared by Jordan Garbitt and Julian Napoleon. Soon after feasting together the participants officially started the day with a smudge led by Elder Sandy Lambert.
After the men settled in, the work began with a viewing of the DUDES Club Documentary. The documentary was followed by a presentation of an overview of the DUDES Club’s past, present and projected expansion in northern communities. The presentation and documentary sparked much conversation, particularly around local concerns specifically about men’s wellness and the interconnectedness of men’s wellness and the health of the communities in which they live.
The afternoon was met with a much deserved moose stew and bannock feast that was skillfully prepared, and demonstrated by Art Napoleon. Some participants were asked to assist in the preparation of the feast; all were well nourished physically and in spirit. The beautiful brisk day invited the men to join together to continue their work outside around the fire pit. Much was discussed, in detail, of a feasible plan that would introduce a club for men’s wellness tailored for the surrounding community. Much was accomplished and an opportunity taken to stretch their legs, relax their minds, and lift their spirits the men walked together to Beaver Lake.
To reenergize, the men gathered for a choice of boiled, baked or pan fried jumbo whitefish. Some chose to taste a bit of each with their potatoes, carrots and bannock. After feasting together the participants took a quick break. Art Napoleon then led a discussion pertaining to ‘Two-Eyed-Seeing’. The presentation proved to be a much-needed outlet for some of the men and was a catalyst to an in-depth dialogue concerning language, identity, community and values. The night was concluded with a cribbage tournament that provided levity and camaraderie amongst the men. The tournament went late into the night and provided a means to reflect on the day’s topics. The men then turned-in and one-by-one slept well.
Folks woke early to a crisp cool morning. For breakfast, pancakes were served and the gesture was appreciated and welcomed. Ivan Paquette conducted a closing circle to wrap up the retreat. However, the day was not finished. The plans for the day shifted as the group decided to accept the invitation, by Elder George Desjarlais, to help with the construction of a sweat on the site of West Moberly Reserve. Building the sweat was a perfect way to conclude the retreat as the men worked in solidarity to build the sweat for the communities wellness and their own.