Valerie’s voice in La Ronge

A little snow this morning to make it seem a bit more like winter, although temperatures have been warm for the last day of November.

Where has the year gone? Or years?

It’s amazing to think in March I will have been in La Ronge for 18 years. The longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life. Wow!

As the holiday season approaches, many different customs and celebrations are happening.

A few weeks ago, I visited with a friend in Saskatoon who came to Canada originally from India. It was a celebration time for her, Navrathi Festival of Nine Nights. She invited us to visit and see her Kolu, a depiction of spiritual creation and a prayer for sustainability for future generations. For her theme this year, she had Saskatchewan depicted on one side, with India on the other. So many beautiful pieces she’s collected over the years and all put together, with blue in the middle to depict the ocean that separates the two countries. The theme can be different each year and the Festival is celebrated in southern India annually.

It was beautiful and moving to visit and see the creative work and care she put into her story. The story came alive for us!

Others will celebrate at this time of year in another way.

Although many celebrate Christmas, others celebrate different holidays at the same time.

I enjoy hearing or seeing something of other people’s celebration as they celebrate their culture and/or spirituality. It is wonderful to experience the rich history many  different people.

This is a time of year that brings back memories of days gone by.

I remember my father as “Father Christmas” and how he enjoyed it. It began Christmas Eve for me when my Dad got home from work just after noon. He usually worked half a day on Christmas Eve.

From I was very young, he would take me shopping to get something for my mother. We would often get the tree along the way.

I loved shopping with my Dad anytime, but Christmas was special.

Even though I lived in a city, our neighbourhood was like a little village, where we knew everyone.

We would shop and visit with all the neighbours before going home, putting up, and decorating the tree.

We always had some special people for Christmas dinner.

On another Christmas Eve, when our children were small, we got a puppy for Christmas. The children slept with the puppy, who became Tammy Lynne Connell, on the floor and we watched a Christmas Eve service from my home Church, where their father and I were married. It was a lovely, peaceful Christmas in my memory.

In later years, I have often celebrate the Winter Solstice in many different ways. With a group of women, the Women’s Dance Circle, we held gatherings that brought many together to celebrate Solstice.

In the dark days of winter, it’s lovely to celebrate the return of the sun and the promise of light.

The turning from darkness to brighter days has different shades for people.

I remember an Indigenous Elder friend saying to me, that “You’ve got it all wrong. When everything is slowing up, hibernating; you get busy.”

It’s something I’ve thought about much over the years and I do slow down much more than I used to do. I call it closeting. A time to renew and replenish. I love it.

While many of can recall lovely holiday memories, for many other people it is a hard time of year.

There can be so many reasons, such as grieving because of the loss of family or friends, memories of difficult times, financial challenges and more.

There are resources out there that offer support to people at this time and all through the year.

Sometimes it’s calling a friend to share and at other times it maybe, finding other options.

There are resources out there to offer support for people.

Sometimes it’s calling a friend to share and at other times it maybe, finding other options.

Some options available:

There in Mental Health and Addictions at the La Ronge Health Centre (306-425-2422).

Piwapan Women’s Centre offers a 24/7 Crisis Line at 306-425-4090.

Wellness Together Canada offers free counselling services at 1-866-585-0445.

Or the Kid’s Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

The 988 Suicide Crisis Helpline is now available 24/7 for calls and texting. Languages: English and French. Further information available at

Another choice I learned about recently: Talking Stick is a free text-only app that can be uploaded onto your phone. It is intended to provide a “safe space to talk” for Indigenous youth and adults. It is “anonymous, confidential and judgement-free. Talking Stick provides the opportunity to talk about such topics as “Mental health and wellness, anxiety, worry stress; trauma; grief and loss; school; work, relationships; violence, anger and bullying.” Quotes are taken from a Taking Stick brochure.

The App is easy to get started with as “there  is no login, no password, and no information required of you. Simply launch the chat and instantly connect one on one,  to a real person who is ready to listen without judgement.”

It is available from the App Store or online through For I information contact

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) developed the app in partnership with TryCyle Data Systems and Indigenous Services Canada.

Indigenous Peer Advocates are available to talk; it’s always anonymous, confidential safe and secure for private one-on-one conversations.

We, at the Northern Advocate, wish, whatever your holiday celebration, it be a happy, healthy and safe one!