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Residential School Survivor Brian Normand

Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2021

Photo: Brian Normand (far right beside the sister), in early 1960 at St. Charles Day Residential School.

The following is a brief biography of Brian Normand:

Hello, Bonjour, Tan’si (Michif), my name is Brian Normand and I’m excited for where my journey has taken me. I am a Metis/Michif descendant from the Red River Settlement and a product from the Residential School System. Married to a proud Metis Woman (Claudette) for 45 years, together we have 3 proud Metis daughters and one son who passed on to the spirit world. I also have 7 grandchildren who keep me very busy.

Altogether I have worked as a spiritual caregiver/elder for the past 20+ years in the justice system (Agassiz Youth Center, Marymound Treatment Center, Stony Mountain Correctional Facility, Metis Child and Family Services, Native Clans and Native Women’s Transition Center) providing culturally relevant care and therapy to Metis, First Nations and Inuit children, youth and families. I previously was a member of the board at Metis Child Family Services and Indian and Metis Friendship Center.

During my tenure with organizations I have participated, developed, implemented and delivered mandatory Aboriginal Awareness Training in addition to building a comprehensive cultural program for individuals involved in the Manitoba Justice System and Child Welfare System. I represented our Metis people at the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.

I was also one of the 71 selected leaders of the world who went on a pilgrimage in Ange, France for collaborative leadership promoting Metis culture, heritage and spirituality.

As well under the mentorship of nationally recognized Grandmother and Elder Gladys Cook, I practiced in conducting the spectrum of Aboriginal ceremonies including Healing and Sharing circles and Longhouse ceremonies.

Throughout time I have built strong partnerships with non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal organizations for the betterment of our people. I was also nominated for the Manitoba Excellence Award in 2002.

The following is a recognition letter from Michael Taylor, Director of Service, Metis Child Family, and Community Services:

When I think of the word “inspirational” Brian Normand comes to mind. He has overcome many challenges in his lifetime, from being a residential school survivor, to the recent loss of his wife, which has not dulled his spirit and zest for life. He continues to move forward, and models this for others.

I joined Metis Child Family and Community Services (MCFCS) in the fall of 2007, as a frontline worker and within a short period of time got introduced to him, when I sought his assistance in supporting a youth through his grief from the tragic loss of his younger brother. That interaction gave me, the first opportunity to bear witness to his many gifts, of empathy, compassion, and humility just to name a few. Brian and I deepened our working relationship over the years as a supervisor, and now as a Director with MCFCS, through our mutual passion for respectful engagement with families.

These early encounters were while he was the Cultural Director for MCFCS, elder and spiritual guide. He oversaw the defining, design and development of our agency’s Cultural Room that he used to facilitate activities such as Sharing Circles, spirit naming ceremonies, the 7 sacred teachings, and Michif language workshops. He also offered learnings about picking medicines, sacred healing herbs, fishing, canoeing, the medicine wheel, and Indigenous astronomy. Additionally he convened counselling, guidance, and support sessions for staff.

His respect, bravery, wisdom, truth, love and honesty were other gifts he freely offered at all circles and ceremonies he facilitated. There he spoke openly about his residential school experiences, and how he overcame past traumas, and struggles, which made him relatable to many participants who had similar challenges of their own.

His knowledge and experience of Metis culture, First Nations traditional practices, and Christian theologically were well integrated. This allowed him to adjust to the cultural preferences of participants, and audience. Through these ceremonies many families were assisted to resolve long standing disputes, as well as reshape their experiences, interactions, and relationships with Child and Family Services. He recently renewed his involvement with the agency, and is currently providing Elder Services.

Congratulations Brian, on being such a motivating influence on the families we have worked with over the years, and I honour our enduring friendship, and your love for humanity.

Grassroots News will be interviewing Residential School Survivor Brian Normand over the next few weeks. You can see our video interviews with Brian on our Facebook page.

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