Actor celebrates life
Jackson delivers poignant message during Dreamcatchers stop

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (May 05/00) - When a young male actor from North of Sixty took his own life a few years ago, the show's tight-knit cast was devastated.

Actor and singer Tom Jackson talked about the tragedy in front of a Fort Simpson audience that gathered last Tuesday to take in his Dreamcatchers tour. The tour has visited 65 communities nationwide over the past few years.

Jackson started the tour to help deal with the problem of suicide, which exists at a 60 to 80 per cent higher rate in aboriginal communities, he said. The statistic is mind-boggling because suicide has no place in First Nations' spirituality or their respect for the land and elders, he added.

"I'm here to celebrate life. I'm here because I love you," he said to the estimated 250 people who turned out at the Thomas Simpson school gymnasium.

"It's not me that's inspiring, it's you that's inspiring. It's you that makes me do what I do."

Jackson and singing colleagues Lisa Brokop and Duane Steele had dates in Fort Simpson and Fort Smith this year. Funded by Health Canada, Canadian Heritage and other corporate sponsors, the series of concerts permits the proceeds from tickets to remain in the host community to help with youth programs and social programs.

Gerry Antoine, executive director of the Deh Cho Friendship Centre, said his organization was anxious to bring the Dreamcatchers tour to Fort Simpson in hopes of instilling a positive message that we can all contribute in the community.

"We certainly agreed to this event. It's quite meaningful to us," said Antoine.

Jackson didn't profess to have all the answers, but he said he recommends an "A-B-C" method. A is talking about the problem. B is recognizing that we can do something about it.

The final step, C, is to actually do something.

"Do you know what community empowerment is?" he asked. "It's deciding you want to do something. It's very simple."

"That's what you've got to do, just go out and do it," Jackson encouraged. "There are people who can help you, but you have to have the courage to ask the question."

Alison Jackson, Tom's wife, said there has been some exceptionally positive feedback from concert-goers and fans of Tom's North of Sixty show.

In Prince Albert, Sask., a woman approached her and told her that Tom's work helped bring joy into her life.

"She gave me pictures. She hugged me. That was great," recalled Alison, who had earlier been asking all kinds of questions about Fort Simpson and recording the answers in her journal.

"It just helps me to understand where we're at and why we're here," she said.