Fort Frances Tribal Area Health’s new name brings broader representation

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Service’s website features seven core values: nibwaakaawin: wisdom, zaagi’idiwin: love, zoongide’ewin: bravery, manaaji’idiwin: respect, dabasendiziwin: humility, gwekwaadiziwin: honesty, and debwewin: truth.

“They are the seven grandfather’s teachings. They are the foundation of our code of conduct and our code of ethics,” says CEO Kayla Caul-Chartier. “We embed them in our daily activities. It helps ground us and remind us of who we are as an organization, what we do, and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

FFTAHS’s new Anishinaabemowin name, Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services, serves as a reminder of the organization’s roots.

“We needed the name to be reflective of the organization and the work that’s being done,” says Caul-Chartier. “It really speaks to the services we provide the clients we care for, and the communities we represent.”

She says the name Giishkaandago’Ikwe speaks to cedar having two spirits, male and female, and it is the ikwewag (women) part of the giishkaandag (cedar spirit) who offered their spirit to help the agency.

“It’s important to understand the significance of the name and where it comes from,” says Caul-Chartier. “Our elder who gifted the name, he shared that he was walking through the bush, and then looked at the trees and saw that they all stood together, and it was obvious to him that no matter how different the trees, they all stood together and worked together for a common cause. In the organization, we’re all working to help the Anishinaabeg of the community. And no matter how different people are within the organization, we all come together for the betterment of the clients we serve.”

She says the vision to have an Anishinaabemowin name has been on their strategic plan for the past five years.

“It was something that our board of directors had identified as a hope or vision for the organization to have an Anishinaabemowin name,” says Caul-Chartier. “So it’s been something that we’ve been working toward obtaining.”

She says it was something they sought guidance from their elders advisory council. They frequented them for support and guidance in the process.

“They recommended we seek an elder to provide that support to us,” she says.

She says they held a naming ceremony in November. The Times was advised to avoid specific details on the sacred proceeding.

In 2007, when the organization was incorporated, Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services was meant to be a temporary name.

“We’re more than just Fort Frances,” Caul-Chartier says. “We needed a name that represented all 10 communities we serve.”

The name change itself is still ongoing, but from now on, FFTAHS will be known as Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services.