In conjunction with National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week (Nov. 15-21), film and television star Gordon Tootoosis will offer up a presentation about his own personal story of his struggle with addictions this coming Monday evening at Rainy River First Nations.
“I’m deeply concerned about addictions, not only on First Nations but everywhere with young people,” Tootoosis said in a telephone interview.
“I see it a lot in the cities, as well, and I’m very disturbed by it.”
Tootoosis, who grew up on the Poundmaker reserve in Saskatchewan, is most widely recognized from the CBC TV series “North of 60,” where he starred as Albert Golo for six seasons.
He also has co-starred alongside celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Sir Anthony Hopkins, lending his talents to many well-known films like “Open Season,” “Reindeer Games,” “Alaska,” “Pocahontas,” and “Legends of the Fall.”
He visited Rainy River District once before—back in May, 2007—and received a hearty welcome from students and community members as he spoke about his life and acting career.
“I hope I can make a difference,” Tootoosis said. “I did not overcome it. I am an addict.
“I am an alcoholic and I will be the rest of my life,” he stressed.
“And I think the sooner young people realize this is a disease that’s treatable, but it’s still with you all your life, they will begin to understand.”
Tootoosis will target his presentation to young people, but also the adults because he feels that without knowing it, those adults who previously had struggled with addictions have an effect on the younger children in the community.
“It’s dealing with the issues that get people addicted in the first place, [that] is what has to be dealt with,” he noted. “It’s a huge issue for me because I think people need to deal with these issues.”
In addition to his personal story, Tootoosis said he also will speak a bit about his career in the entertainment industry.
“I think people have a lot of questions about television and film that I will probably be able to answer, and I am happy to do that,” he remarked, adding he’s trying to track down a photo with himself and either Pitt or Hopkins that he would auction off during his visit.
Tootoosis will speak at the Rainy River First Nations’ gymnasium beginning at 6 p.m. on Monday (Nov. 16), following a potluck dinner there at 5 p.m.
But National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week will kick off there Sunday afternoon with a sobriety walk through the community.
The event begins at 1 p.m. at the gymnasium, and afterwards there will be kids’ activities, including a “Wii” bowling tournament.
But in order to be able to play in the tournament, they have to have participated in the sobriety walk, noted Elvis Debungee, the community’s addictions counsellor.
“Everyone is welcome to come out to any of our activities and presentations for the week,” he stressed. “It is open to everyone and we hope to see a lot of people.”
On Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. in the resource centre, Renate Winkler of Pharmasave will offer a presentation about prescription drug abuse and methadone treatment.
Following that will be a four-on-four volleyball tournament in the gym.
Wednesday will see another community potluck starting at 5 p.m., with another presentation at 6 p.m. in which Janice Ross and Dave Harms will speak about their recovery from prescription drug abuse.
“Nighthawk” then will provide entertainment until 11 p.m.
Wrapping up the presentations next Thursday (Nov. 19) at 6 p.m. will be Hugh Dennis, co-ordinator of the Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team, who will present the recent locally-produced “Photo Voice” projects meant to promote dialogue about drug and alcohol abuse.
“We just want to bring awareness,” Debungee stressed. “That you can have fun without drugs and alcohol.
“And that’s what we’re trying to promote for the young people; trying to point them in the right direction.”
“We’re excited to have Gordon [Tootoosis] here again,” echoed Harvey Cochrane, who is responsible for bringing the actor here.
“He got a good response last time and he has a good story to tell.”
Cochrane also is able to arrange presentations by other well-knowns for any groups interested. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 482-9966.
For more information about local activities for National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week, contact the Rainy River First Nations’ band office at 482-2479.