About Gitpo Spirit Lodge

Gitpo Spirit Lodge

A place of community

Supporting individual First Nation citizens while creating a united voice for all.

“We must look at Canada as a village, and contribute as much as we can to be leaders within our communities,” Augustine says. “Through friendship gatherings, the many cultures that call this land home celebrate each other. This collective spirit of peace and friendship reminds us that, when the drums begin to beat, we all march together.”

We are helping our country come together for a better future

Gitpo Spirit Lodge is a concept by AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine. The plan is to develop a national men’s wellness facility with locations serving the Atlantic, Western and Pacific regions. Many of our men (Boys to Men) have lived with various issues that affect their ability to function in their own First Nations, with the goal to develop them to become respected leaders and elders of the community.

“Gitpo” is the Mi’gmaq word for Eagle. The Eagle is the symbol of one of the seven traditional teachings of the Mi’qmag people

Gitpo Spirit Lodge Wellness and Harm Reduction Pilot Project

Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Roger Augustine, a veteran of 45 years in First Nation politics and a survivor of the residential (institution) school system and Indian Day school, is the visionary behind this project.

Chief Roger has, through his adult life advanced his bold and compassionate drive to turn his vision into reality through the principles of Peace and Friendship.

Chief Roger possesses a well-established track record of advancing wellness for First Nation communities across Canada.

In the late 1970s, as a councillor on the Eel Ground Band Council, Roger recognized the need for alcohol and drug education programming at Eel Ground. His ground-breaking work laid the foundation for his community’s Rising Sun facility which became a model that many First Nations replicated across the country.

Since that early foray into politics, Roger’s career included 16 years as Chief of Eel Ground, time spent as National Chief Phil Fontaine’s chief of staff, and for the past 16 years, served as Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Throughout his career Chief Roger, promoted wellness within his community and heralded it as a priority with the 634 other First Nations communities. His fundamental belief is that individual and community wellness is the foundation for enhancing the quality of life and capacity building.

He is working with key collaborators- Eco-Canadian Organics, University of New Brunswick and the Cortex Group to establish a wellness and harm reduction pilot project which will incorporate an innovative medical cannabis product.

As a natural product, the medicinal value of the cannabis flower is recognized globally for both its safety and effectiveness for a variety of diseases and medical ailments. Best practices for Aboriginal wellness involves a range of services from mainstream healthcare to traditional practices and medicines all under community leadership and administration.

The purpose of the wellness and harm reduction pilot project is to evaluate the utility of cannabinoids as an alternative for treatment of opioid addictions and dependency on the chemical pharmaceuticals Methadone or Suboxone.

Chief Roger built a formidable team of key strategic partners.

• Eco-Canadian Organics is a locally owned, healthcare license for production, cultivation and
selling of the highest-quality, lab tested organically grown cannabis products. E.C.O. is focused on supporting First Nation communities, by promoting wellness and harm reduction, and developing health and wellness services
• Cortex Group, as the marketing and production component of the pilot project, has patentedproducts designed for the highest quality of delivery of the cannabinoid products to the
participants in the pilot project.
• A team of scientists at the University of New Brunswick, are investigating the utility of cannabis as a treatment modality providing academic structure with a five-year research
project.

Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation, a community of 850 members operates the Rising Sun facility, established by Chief Roger over 40 years ago. This facility serves four other Mi’gmaq First Nations communities within a 45-minute drive. A primary focus of its leadership and its Elders is the wellness and health of its community.

The model of the holistic wellness center, Gitpo Spirit Lodge, offers traditional learning including, but not limited to;
drumming, education and training for career in leadership positions, and the wellness and harm reduction initiative.

Through a virtual reality component at the Spirit Lodge, programs based in peace and friendship will be made available across the First Nations and Indigenous communities in Canada.

These programs will bring Chief Rogers vision to fruition as his dreams become reality.

The eagle represents love because he has the strength to carry all the teachings.

The eagle has the ability to fly highest and closest to the creator and also has the sight to see all the ways of being from great distances.

The Eagle’s teaching of love can be found in the core of all teachings, therefore an eagle feather is considered the highest honor and a sacred gift.

To know love is to know peace. View your inner-self from the perspective of all teachings. This is to know love and to love yourself truly.

Then you will be at peace with yourself, the balance of life, all things and also with the creator.

-The complete seven traditional teachings may be referred to in the section About Roger and are:attached.

We have members nationwide that work, or have served, in the armed forces, corrections, policing, and social work, etc. Customarily, a man is seen as a strong role model and it is frowned upon to seek assistance for illnesses/issues that have developed over prolonged exposure to violence, death, divorce, prejudice or even having to enforce laws and policy against your own people. As a result, men have turned to drugs and alcohol as a vice to cope with the stressors. Treatment centres have been developed over the years but are limited to addressing the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Gitpo Spirit Lodge will strive to help the individual regain pride in his language and culture and see how it is the foundation from which we gather our strength, first as an individual and as a First Nations member.

The program will address the needs of First Nations men in our territories who are dealing with issues varying from personal family matters (relationships, finances, etc.) to mental health issues (post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, etc.).

The aim is to focus on the need of the individual and develop a custom program to assist them in becoming productive members of their First Nations and families. Regardless of which program they participate in, culture and language are a main priority. “Boys to Men” will be exposed daily to sweat lodge ceremonies, smudging, drumming and language under the guidance of an Elder. It is based on these principles that this concept gained the full support of the AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly at an Assembly in Gatineau, Quebec in 2018.

Understanding, of course, that women are the backbone of our First Nations and families, many of their issues stem from unresolved and unaddressed matters amongst the male population. The rates of suicide and substance abuse among our youth (18-35) are staggering and need to be addressed before our youth are forced into the judicial system and removed from their families and First Nations, many never to return. We have assembled a team of professionals in the fields of psychology, mental health, law enforcement, sports and nutrition, life skills, and language and culture. Through the unmeasurable combined experience of this team, we will be able to address these issues and prevent our youth from ever experiencing the trauma of a system unprepared to effectively deal with our people.

Subsequently, through these wellness facilities we will see our youth gain the skills and confidence to return to the work force or school and to be looked at as role models by their children and families while passing on their newly revived respect for their language and culture.

It’s sunrise on Eel Ground First Nation, and Roger Augustine, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, is walking along a path beside the Miramichi River. This river — this land — is home, not only to him but also to the collective spirit of more than 200 generations of his Mi’kmaq ancestors.

“I feel their presence,” Augustine says. “They balance me. Life has taught me to trust my warrior spirit — the spirit of peace and friendship I have inherited from them — and to let that spirit inspire my thoughts and guide each step I take.”

Augustine’s warrior spirit has guided him along many paths. A tireless advocate for education and training for aboriginal youth, he has been involved in politics, economic development, and the environment, and he has a special interest in addictions treatment. After receiving specialized training in drug and alcohol education from St. Francis Xavier University, he made enormous strides in dealing with addiction in his community.

Augustine is also a trained mediator specializing in alternative dispute resolution. Knowledge gained from his studies in conflict management and mediation at the University of Waterloo enable him to take on critical roles in crisis situations. “My spirit guides me to negotiate in peace and friendship, as a way to build cross-cultural relationships.”

Augustine believes that respect, openness of spirit, and effective communication bring balance to sociocultural conflicts and success to business partnerships. That’s why he, along with four other respected Canadian aboriginal leaders, founded GITPO, a partnership that provides natural-resource and economic-development projects with services such as negotiation, capital investment, engineering and more. Augustine serves as its chair.

As a co-founder of the Atlantic Policy Congress (APC), the political voice for First Nations Chiefs in Atlantic Canada, Augustine uses his training, depth of knowledge and balanced approach to ensure openness and dialogue. In 1981, he was one of several dozen representative chiefs from across Canada who signed the historic Declaration of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

In 2014, Augustine received the Order of New Brunswick for his efforts in improving the well-being of First Nations communities and strengthening relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.

  • Oinpegitjoig (Pabineau)
  • Natoaganeg (Eel Ground)
  • Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation (Red Bank)
  • Esgenoôpetitj (Burnt Church)
  • Ugpi’ganjig (Eel River Bar)
  • Elsipogtog (Big Cove)
  • Indian Island
  • Bouctouche
  • Fort Folly
  • Madawaska Maliseets
  • Negootgook (Tobique)
  • Woodstock
  • Pilick (Kingsclear)
  • Sitansisk (Saint Mary’s)
  • Welamoktuk (Oromocto)

OUR GOAL:

We promote an understanding and willingness to collaboratively address issues and challenges while enabling economic development that leaves no one behind and that is in balance with social and environmental concerns.

OUR MISSION:

We provide a professional and culturally appropriate service to enable our clients to achieve success through meaningful engagement and prosperous relationships.

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