Saskatoon Council on Aging - Age-friendly community

Aboriginal Engagement - Practicum Students


Meet Cheri Meunier

My name is Cheri Meunier, and I am a Métis woman from north western Saskatchewan. I relocated to Saskatoon in 2012 with my two children to attend First Nations University of Canada. I am currently on my last practicum and I will graduate in June 2016 with my Bachelors degree in Indigenous Social Work. There are many barriers that follow single parenting and being an Aboriginal woman; you are expected to fail by society. I am a role model for my children and also the members of my community. Education is the key to our future. 

Prior to Social Work I was enrolled in the nursing area and working on my first practicum when I realized I was in the wrong career field. I was studying in the nursing care home at the Prince Albert hospital. There was an older man that I was assigned to and he was my reason for changing my career path. I wanted to be a positive change for seniors living in home care settings. There was neglect and robotic behaviour from professionals who should have been showing compassion to the patients.

As a practicum student at SCOA, I have been given the opportunity to work many areas and attend different events alongside the employees. This has been a great experience given my interest in working for the senior population. 

Growing up as an Aboriginal child we were always taught to highly respect our grandparents and seniors because they were sacred and would hold stories and lessons that would benefit our futures. SCOA has engaged in a relationship with the Aboriginal community through our projects for Aboriginal grandmothers. There has been awareness made to the Aboriginal community about SCOA and their services.

This has been a great experience and I would highly recommend other students to engage in their practicum experiences with the Saskatoon Council on Aging.

Meet Sonya Whitehawk

My name is Sonya Whitehawk, I come from the Cote First Nation. I am a Saulteaux woman that grew up in a traditional family. I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Indigenous Studies and am in my final year of achieving a Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work degree. I am doing my first Social Work practicum at the Saskatoon Council on Aging. I recognize that there is a need for services for Aboriginal older adults in the inner city of Saskatoon. The Aboriginals that live in urban and core city areas need to be involved with the Saskatoon Council on Aging but this is a barrier as they sometimes feel excluded from mainstream society. 

As a young girl I attended cultural ceremonies that took place on numerous First Nations. I would attend these events with my traditional grandmother and mother. We would go pick sweet grass and sage in the summer. She would also take us picking berries and taught the girls how to cook them for feasts. We also used to pick birch bark from trees and soak it to make birch bark baskets. This was my favourite activity that I enjoyed the most.  She hosted cultural nights at her residence and I was always involved with whatever activity she had going on in her home.  She would have beading in one room and pow wow singing or making bannock and eating it with jam in another room.  My mother always said to me as a young girl, “that it is not what we get from our achievements but rather who we become through the process of achieving”.  I grew up with this always in the back of mind.

While doing my practicum I worked on an Aboriginal video project where I recruited youth participants and looked for older aboriginal adults to interview. The project involved gathering positive stories on older Aboriginal adults and youth engaging in conversations while videotaping the interactions. This engagement is a traditional teaching as it is “learning from listening”.  I also worked on another project in the community collecting data with the use of surveys.  I also attended numerous meetings and interacted in the Seniors Neighbourhood Hub Clubs and enjoyed this experience.
Mikwec (thank you)

Meet Shannon Lacasse

My name is Shannon Lacasse.  I am currently an Indigenous Social Work student at the First Nations University of Canada working towards my Bachelor’s of Social Work.  I have been fortunate enough to join the Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) team for my practicum experience and I couldn’t be more excited about being a part of all the wonderful events and activities that are taking place here at SCOA.  

The Saskatoon Council on Aging would like to engage in an age-friendly partnership with Aboriginal seniors in the community.  SCOA is interested in hearing directly from older Aboriginal people about their experiences of growing older in Saskatoon.  We are looking to create opportunities for Aboriginal older adults to get them involved in the wider community.  SCOA is hoping to identify ways to improve quality of life by identifying their needs and concerns to make positive changes in the lives of aging Aboriginal seniors.

Aboriginal ideologies embrace a holistic concept of health that reflects physical, spiritual, emotional and mental aspects.  Many Aboriginal older adults are often restricted from access to available resources that might contribute to difficulties in the city.  Some challenges Aboriginal seniors encounter living in an urban setting are as follows: 

        1. Withstanding social isolation
        2. Keeping and finding culture
        3. Lack of transportation services
        4. Lack of assisted living services
        5. Lack of family support
        6. Lack of housing
        7. Lack of programming
        8. Lack of physical exercise
        9. Lack of drug and alcohol abuse programs
        10. Lack of traditional food