SHESHEGWANING – Residents of Sheshegwaning First Nation had a very special COVID-19 ‘community check-in’ provided by motivational speaker Stan Wesley, virtually through Zoom and a large LED screen at the community powwow grounds this past Sunday, to coincide with National Indigenous Peoples Day.
“We’re friends of Stan Wesley, who is originally from Moose Factory; we’ve known him for a long time. He has been to the community several times and is a motivational speaker,” Nicole Bush, of the Sheshegwaning Health Centre, told the Recorder.
“We have a small, tight-knit community, everyone knows each other,” said Ms. Bush. “We are all trying to deal mentally with the COVID-19 pandemic and we asked him to visit our community virtually and basically do a ‘community check-in,’ so we can look at ways to protect ourselves and help everyone in the community who are facing the same problems and concerns through this, and look at what we can do here.”
Ms. Bush said, “Stan is a high-energy dynamic speaker and he uses a lot of humour to get his message across. We just want to help everyone through the pandemic.”
“This day shines longest, and you people are amazing,” Mr. Wesley told the local residents, who bade a happy Father’s Day to all those in attendance.
Community members participated in the presentation using their cell phones.
“Come on Sheshegwaning, let’s love each other,” stated Mr. Wesley. “Welcome to the Stan Wesley Pandemic Show,” he quipped.
“Thank you to your First Nation for inviting me, I’ve been to your community quite a few times and I love it.”
Mr. Wesley posed a series of questions to the residents to respond to, including what kind of pet do you prefer? What is your favourite powwow food? What slang is unique to the community? He also asked for and received responses to what community members feel an apt title would be for a movie made about their pandemic experiences. Among the responses were, ‘No Hugs Allowed’ and ‘Groundhog Day.’
Community members were asked to describe COVID-19 in one word, and some of the responses included isolation, regulations, sucks, scary, lonely and monotonous.
“What do you miss the most?” asked Mr. Wesley, who received replies such as family, freedom to travel, leaving the house, vacation, big gatherings, hugs, live music and concerts. “I love handshakes and hugs, but this has been taken away with the pandemic,” said Mr. Wesley. “I can’t wait for us getting back to a normal world.”
Community members were asked what they have learned about themselves during the pandemic and if they could provide any words of encouragement for people who are struggling out there. “This too shall pass, be brave, patient and keep going, we miss seeing you, keep in touch, you’re valued in your community. Just breathe, take it one day at a time” and “you can get through this” were some of the responses.
“This is a major pandemic and we need to take seriously,” said Mr. Wesley. “But what are you going to say in the future because people will look to you in the future to explain what it was like.”
The residents also said that once this pandemic is over, that the community and families will celebrate.
Then he had participants take part in a fun pandemic game.
Born and raised in Moose Factory, Ontario, a Cree community on the south coast of James Bay, Mr. Wesley as a youth began what would be a life-long career of bringing laughter and meaning to audiences with the creation of ‘Bunnuck,’ a weekly show that aired on TVO and TVNC for several seasons.
Since then for over 20 years, he has engaged and entertained audiences with his unique style of fun and in-depth presentations, keynotes, emcee and facilitation services. He speaks on a variety of issues with a focus on celebrating success and advancing good, healthy relations among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
He has worked at the local, regional, provincial and national levels. With his high-energy, sincere professional approach, he is considered by many to be one of the top speakers in the country today.
During the early afternoon, many kids of all ages relaxed by flying kites at the Sheshegwaning lakefront. And after Mr. Wesley’s presentation, everyone gathered for a fresh fish and chip dinner.