The buck starts here
Self-government field workers brush up on skills

Paula White
Northern News Services

INUVIK (May 07/99) - Their responsibility is enormous.

Learn the ins and outs of issues surrounding self-government, learn how to communicate these issues to people in the communities and learn how to pass the people's concerns along to self-government negotiators.

But even though the task may seem daunting to some, it didn't seem to phase self-government field workers from the eight Beaufort Delta communities who were in Inuvik this week to attend the second of three, week-long workshops.

"This was challenging and interesting," said Kelvin Elanik, of Aklavik, referring to the April 26-30 workshop on empowerment. His thoughts were echoed by Jean Harry of Sachs Harbour and Linda McDonald of Inuvik.

"Well, it was enlightening," McDonald said. "It gives you a chance to take a look at yourself."

A total of eight field workers attended the empowerment workshop at Aurora College. This week's focus is on leadership and next week's is on communication. The field workers, many of them new to the job, signed up for the workshops as part of their training.

"For me, it was very productive," commented Sarah Dillon of Tuktoyaktuk. "I got a lot done working on myself."

Bev Lennie of Inuvik agreed. "Challenged. Enlightened."

The empowerment workshop was facilitated by two trainers from the Dene Cultural Institute in Hay River -- Pauline (Niptanatiak) Plamondon and Ann Firth-Jones. A third woman, Julia Pokiak Trennert, is a trainee. Firth-Jones is originally from Fort McPherson, Pokiak Trennert from Tuktoyaktuk and Plamondon from Kugluktuk. Together, the three have travelled to communities all over Canada holding workshops. Their mandate, according to Plamondon, is to train aboriginal people in the communities to be able to facilitate workshops of their own.

"There's a lot of resource people and trained people in the community that don't get used," Plamondon said.

Plamondon said their goal, by focusing on empowerment, was to enable the field workers to learn how to communicate effectively with people. Empowerment, she added, allowed the group to resolve many of their own personal issues so they are better able to do this. Plamondon used her own experience to illustrate the point.

"If I haven't dealt with anger that I felt from being abused at the residential school (Grollier Hall), I can't be unbiased and I probably express anger rather than what the person needs, like compassion, understanding," she explained. "From doing their own personal work, they're going to be aware of their barriers when talking with individuals or people they work with."

And judging from the air of peace that accompanied the reactions of the field workers to the workshop, the three women accomplished what they set out to do.

"I discovered I have freedom," said Robert Kuptana of Holman Island.

"Lots of insights," said Melba Mitchell of Aklavik.

"Very resourceful. A lot of resource information. Great facilitators. Wisdom for productive choices," said James Andre of Fort McPherson.

But Andre also pointed out that it shouldn't just be self-government field workers attending these workshops and learning communication skills. He said community leaders should be there as well.