senator gravellePCMNO Senator Rene Gravelle receiving a plaque from Dr.
Roger Strasser, Dean of the Northern Ontario School of
Medicine. The plaque was gifted to Senator Gravelle for his
years of service to the school. (Source: Kimberley Larkin)
From August 18-20, Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) Senator Rene Gravelle attended a historic gathering hosted by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s (NOSM) Aboriginal Affairs Unit. Aboriginal Elders from Métis and First Nations communities across Northern Ontario met to plan the future of the NOSM’s Council of Elders.

In the past ten years, the NOSM developed relationships with over 20 Elders who brought much skill and knowledge to the Aboriginal Affairs Unit and the school’s students on both the Laurentian University campus in Sudbury and the Lakehead University campus in Thunder Bay.

With the school’s 10th anniversary taking place this year, the NOSM re-evaluated the structure of the Council of Elders and decided to find a structure that would better reflect the ties between Aboriginal tradition and medicine.

“Rather than forming a corporate style working group, we decided it was best to bring the question on how to restructure the Council of Elders to the Elders themselves,” explained Tina Armstrong, NOSM’s Director of Aboriginal Affairs. “We embraced our culture and took the question of how to change the Council of Elders to the spirits for guidance through ceremony.”

Senator Gravelle participated in a Turtle Lodge Ceremony on the traditional lands of the Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay. Their ceremony is a tradition among the First Nations with deep, spiritual connections.

“I’d never seen that before,” Senator Gravelle shared in an interview. “I learned a lot and have a deep respect for the way the First Nations seek guidance.”

The experience of the ceremony was one Senator Gravelle would never forget.

At the gathering, it was decided that the new Council of Elders would be made up of eight people: four men and four women. Each person would represent one of the cardinal directions of the medicine wheel to ensure the spiritual, cultural, political and territory of each region is represented.

“This is a historic first for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine,” said Dr. Roger Strasser, NOSM’s Dean. “The school has actively chosen to engage the Elders in decisions over the past ten years. Elders play an extremely important role in the school and provide links to many Aboriginal communities in the north. We are so pleased the Elders chose to attend…and grateful for their guidance in determining the future direction of the school.”

The NOSM will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with the launch of NOSM’s Strategic Plan 2015-2020: Reaching Beyond Extraordinary Together, which many Elders helped to develop.

Published on: September 29, 2015