Addictions & Wellness with Paul Andrew
"Happiness is a very strong medicine."
This week on the show, we share a conversation we recorded back in early August with Paul Andrew from Tulíta, in the Sahtú Region of Denendeh. We talk about addictions, community challenges such as pain, loss, grief and depression, and healing rooted in the teachings of Elders and Ancestors. We discuss the connections between addictions and grief, and discover uplifting similarities in our cultural teachings around health and wellness.
Paul shares what he says would be comparative to the Ten Commandments from his culture, the Three Commandments his Elders have left him to share. Gerry tells a story in which he was told the answer to a question about why our communities are struggling with addictions today. The Elders, speaking through an interpreter, said to Gerry, “Tell him we know why we’re like this.”
We talk about living in solutions, and processing loss. We are very excited to share this conversation and these teachings with you. Due to some initial technical difficulties with our software tools, we needed to get creative and so we recorded this conversation from inside Gerry’s vehicle parked outside of his home, with his phone plugged into the handsfree! We did our best with the audio, but you may notice this a little in the recording.
Paul Andrew was born along the Twitya River in the Mackenzie Mountains across from Tulít’a, NT. He was raised in the Sahtú Region of Treaty 11 Territory, growing up on the land in the Mackenzie Mountains across from Tulít’a before spending seven years attending residential school as a young man. After many years in residential school, Paul is a student of Dene history, including but not limited to connection to the environment, Dene understandings of cosmology, pharmacology, ecology and Indigenous spirituality.
Paul became Chief of Tulita at the age of 22, the year before the Berger Inquiry heard testimony from across the Mackenzie Valley with regards to a proposed pipeline construction project. Paul worked as a broadcaster for CBC for 30 years before retiring in 2012. While at CBC, Paul covered all the biggest Northern stories of the age. After hosting On the Trapline, Focus North and Northbeat, he launched the multi-language phone-in show Ehts'ula. He's also known as a singer-songwriter, performing in his regional dialect of the Slavey language. Paul also served as the Vice President of the Dene Nation.
In 2012, Paul was appointed to chair the NWT Minister’s Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness, a committee which was created to facilitate a community-engaged action plan meant to advance healing and wellness across the Northwest Territories. The committee worked to make recommendations to the department of Health and Social Services based on feedback from hearings in communities across the NWT.
In May of 2017, Paul was awarded the Order of the Northwest Territories. The Order of the Northwest Territories, established in 2013 by the Territorial Emblems and Honours Act, recognizes individuals who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of the NWT or elsewhere. It is the highest honour awarded to NWT residents.
These days, Paul composes and performs songs in his first language: Mountain Dene, part of the North Slavey language. He visits the Mackenzie Mountains regularly to never forget ehts’ula.