Mekwan is a Regional coordinator for ASWCO overseeing all communities in the southeast region. Throughout her life she has always been active in numerous sports such as lacrosse, basketball and volleyball. She previously competed in three North American Indigenous Games as an athlete, coach and sport manager. Mekwan sought additional leadership opportunities and certifications outside of multiple workplace settings within Aboriginal organizations.
She is a proud Ontarian of Mushkegowuk Cree and Belgian descent as a member of Fort Albany First Nation. She hails mainly from Simcoe in Norfolk County, but currently resides on Six Nations territory. When asked about the MIG, Mekwan said, “The Masters Indigenous Games is not just about competition. It allows people from all different communities to come together and share experiences and build friendships”
Mike Auksi (Ojibway-Estonian) is currently the Coordinator of Education, Culture and Wellness Programs at the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. In sport, he was truly blessed to play hockey for the Lac Seul First Nation Eagles, as well as the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Ryerson University Rams. Most recently, Mike’s lifelong dream came true as he represented Team Estonia at the 2018 IIHF Pyeongchang Olympic Qualification Games.
Connie Powless, from Six Nations of the Grand River has been a softball player for as long as she can remember. She was part of the very first First Nation team to play at the World Games in Italy in 2013, where her team won bronze. Baseball and bowling have always been part of her life, but recently her sports have taken a backseat to her family. When asked to define wellness, she says, “three words – mind, body and spirit. If you are taking care of those three things, you’re getting the right balance.”
Connie is a great example of what it means to be a Wellness Warrior because she tries to eat as healthy as she can, and ensures her mother stays healthy too. Connie’s mother has played a big role in her life, especially when she was younger. Her mother attended a number of Masters Games as a team manager, while Connie participated in the Masters Games and she hopes to be able to have her cheering her on at MIG 2018 in July.
Chief Stacey Laforme was first elected to the Mississaugas of the Credit council in 1999 and since then has served his community for over 15 years. Born and raised on the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) territory, Chief Laforme says exercise has always been a part of his life and has always been a way for him to release stress. Twenty years ago while working for the Social and Health Services department in MNCFN, Chief LaForme started a gym, which is still in operation today. Chief LaForme’s daily wellness routine consists of push-ups, smudging, and telling his family he loves them every chance he gets.
Kerry Andrews is a member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation and has lived in her community for most of her life. She’s currently the manager of Sports and Recreation for the community and is honoured to play an active role in supporting the wellness of community members. Kerry says, “I look forward to being a role model for my family and community; to being a stronger, healthier version of myself now and long into the future.”
Sport played a very big role in Kerry’s life while growing up, she played on quite a few team sports such as volleyball, basketball, badminton and even rugby. Kerry and her husband share a love of golf and this season they plan on introducing the sport to their children.
She’s inspired by her Grandmother, a residential school survivor, and her mother, another strong and resilient woman who not only dealt with rheumatoid arthritis since her late twenties and diabetes but is also a breast cancer survivor. Her husband and children are the most beautiful and amazing blessings in her life, and she says they inspire her to work hard every single day to achieve a stronger, healthier Kerry.
Maria Jacko is an Algonquin Anishnaabe from Kitigan Zibi, QC. She’s a proud mother of three beautiful daughters, twin 18-year olds and a 13-year-old. She is a certified fitness instructor, medical laboratory technician, and entrepreneur (founder of Rebound Triumph and Maria’s Essential Oils). Maria has been fortunate enough to teach fitness and lead programs at Kitigan Zibi School, Kitigan Zibi Health Centre, the Odawa Native Friendship Centre, and a number of other organizations throughout the Ottawa region. She also organizes an annual run called the KZ Run/Walk for Maisy and Shannon, in honour of her niece who went missing nine years ago. You can learn more about the KZ Run/Walk for Maisy and Shannon at www.findmaisyandshannon.com
She finds that it’s easier for her to train when she sets a goal, and currently Maria is working towards three goals:
Maria says, “wellness for me is all encompassing and holistic. It’s like the medicine wheel teachings and includes the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual elements. Taking care of me is very important on all these levels.” She’s inspired by her daughters, she works to be the best Maria she can be, because she wants to best for them. She also sees inspiration in other Indigenous people who work to help our youth thrive to be the best they can be, and other Indigenous athletes. Her daughter Jennifer is a huge inspiration in her life right now because her goal is to be a future Olympian in track and field.
The Masters Indigenous Games are a fantastic way for Maria to test herself against other Indigenous people in her generation, and she’s excited for it! She says the Games are helping middle age and older Indigenous adults to strive for something, to train to be their best and to become healthier in the process. The Games are a great focus for this age group she says and hopes that more funding and more incentives go into this type of programming and they become a regular thing.