Indigenous milestone celebrated in CK

Welcoming ceremony for first ever Indigenous Peer advocate in Chatham-Kent. Sept 18, 2020. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

The Indigenous community in Chatham-Kent is being offered a new lifeline to help Indigenous persons live in local urban communities.

The first-ever local Indigenous Peer advocate was introduced on Friday. Lana Parenteau is from Delaware First Nation and will collaborate with people and various health, social, economic, and educational service agencies to meet individual needs, such as addiction and mental health support. The idea is to have a liaison between the two cultures and Parenteau said she is excited about the work ahead and will do her best. Parenteau said for too long Indigenous people have felt invisible and she will try hard to get people to listen and better understand Indigenous needs.

“We all want to work together and get the best possible care for our people. That’s the main thing and offering them hope,” said Parenteau.

Skyler Altiman, who is admittedly shy and in her third year of college in London, said she felt alone in strange surroundings during her first year away from Walpole Island and believes the new advocate will help her peers.

“Basically did not speak to anyone. So, it was very isolating in the first year. Even with the First Nations Centre, I wasn’t very talkative. It was actually a women’s centre that helped me open up a bit more,” Altiman said.

Walpole Island First Nation, The Municipality of Chatham-Kent through Family Service Kent, and the United Way teamed up to make the new role a reality. Nearly $94,000 is going toward this new position. Parenteau is under contract for one year but she hopes her role will continue long term.