Indigenous community comes together to mark Overdose Awareness Day

CHIPPEWAS OF THE THAMES FIRST NATION – Dozens of people gathered Tuesday in this Indigenous community southwest of London to mark Overdose Awareness Day.

About 50 people gathered at the site of a former residential school for the walk, part of an international event intended to honour people who’ve died or been affected due to drug overdoses.

“This is a small piece of our healing and we have a long way to go,” said Gloria Boutcher of the Cultural Outreach Harm Reduction team at Chippewa Health Centre, which organized the local event.

“We’re all connected and interconnected across Turtle Island. Every community suffers from high numbers of overdose, addiction and trauma.

"To end overdose, we need to meet people where they’re at.”

Boutcher's team provides supports and services to people who are dealing with substance abuse. It serves three First Nations communities: Chippewas of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware First Nation, and Oneida Nation of the Thames.

Tuesday's event began with a sunrise ceremony, followed by a breakfast and two-kilometre walk from the Mount Elgin Residential School monument to Chippewa Ball Park. It closed with a sharing circle, where some participants shared their stories of strength and healing in defeating drug overdose.

Though recognized on an international scale, the event hits home for many in the First Nations communities.

Amber MacDougall, of Oneida Nation of the Thames, didn’t just survive drug overdose, she overcame it. The 34-year-old said she’s been in recovery for the past 10 years.

“I know several people struggling with addiction and some who have passed,” Logan said. “I'm really glad people are bringing awareness to this issue,” she added, as she embarked on the two-kilometre walk.

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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