Over the past five years, women – and a few men – have joined Louise Coonishish’s Sewing Project to help them solve their problems and find a sense of community.
“We knew there were people who needed support in their grief, their depression, so we asked those people if they wanted to join us. I invite women to come in, people who need therapy, just to get out of their homes and do something else instead of being locked up at home, depressed, ”Coonishish told Nation.
“I’m trying to bring in single parents. I also have clients who need community hours or who are referred to the justice committee for help and advice.
The program is so successful that some people keep asking to come back. Unfortunately, there is not always room. “I usually take new ones, and if I have room I call someone who wants to come over and see if they’re still interested.”
Coonishish runs the program from Mistissini, where she is the Community Justice Worker Coordinator. Each sewing project takes 10 sessions of two to three hours. The program is part of the Eenou Nadamaadun, the justice committee, which translates as “helping each other”. about 75 people go out every year.
“In the beginning, when we made moccasins, there were a few men who wanted to learn. I accepted that they come to join us. We have other activities for men, like sculpture, ”Coonishish noted. “Usually we make moccasins or mittens with moose skin embroidery and beads. We also make gun cases, shell cases, that sort of thing. At the moment we are making parkas – this is my first time.
Coonishish hires experienced instructors locally, and Elders are recruited as counselors to help with teaching and language, especially to help teach new words. “Today, the younger generation barely speak Cree, and we want to keep our culture and learn our culture. ”
Currently, 17 people make parkas for themselves or for their loved ones. The challenge with parkas is getting a lot of good quality material, which can get expensive. These parkas are lined with wool. It takes two years to plan for the acquisition and use of the feathers, as they can only be harvested once a year when the geese visit.
Six women showed up for the first project, Coonishish recalls. “More people came after because those who were there told their friends and family, their daughters, so it grew. I have a “limit” of 10, but now we’re 17 because I can’t say no when someone wants to sew with us.
Coonishish posts flyers and posts information on their Facebook page when there are openings, after contacting previous customers. The program is open to people 18 and over, although sometimes some women bring their daughters 16 and over.
The Coonishish office also organizes canoe trips in July after school ends. They take the young rowers on the lake for 10 days near the traditional gathering to learn how to catch, clean and smoke the fish. In the fall, there is a 10-day moose program that takes youth and young families out of the community to “freshen up the spirit”.
During the geese break, Coonishish takes families or individuals with community hours to spend time in the bush, helping the elders, helping around the camp, while they have the chance to hunt and harvest the geese. In addition, there is a bush program that involves spending 10 days with experienced trappers where individuals can go partridge and rabbit snare hunting and learn to clean their game.