2009 Winners

Northwest Private Sector

Norma Fawcett - Lake Helen-Nipigon

Dee Adrian

Economic times may be tough on the North Shore of Lake Superior but residents always know where they can go to be uplifted.

Anyone who has met Norma Fawcett refers to her bubbly personality, contagious laughter and unwavering values as the spiritual and cultural cornerstone of her Lake Helen First Nation community in the Nipigon area.

Her kitchen table is the place to be for delicious bannock burgers, pies, muffins and other delicacies, and it is where a good chunk of the community’s business and social activities are played out.
To those around her, Norma is a community helper, a social advocate, a community elder, a cultural gate keeper, a home-based missionary, a terrific cook, a talented seamstress, and to her 11 grandchildren, simply ‘Granny.’

Norma has always lived life on her terms based on common sense principles and values instilled by many relatives who taught her to serve the community before herself.

“Free will is a big part of my life. I didn’t know what it was until my son gave it a name.”

This mother of four grown children has accomplished a lot in her 66 years, despite never having any formal schooling. Born in 1942, on the floor of her grandfather’s house on the nearby Parmacheene Reserve, most of her early schooling was done through correspondence courses. She started Grade 8, but never finished it.

Still, she has no regrets. “I’m glad I didn’t go that route, because I can see things differently than other people do.”

It taught the former Chief of the Red Rock Indian Band, that there were no limits to anything she sets her mind to, especially the area’s highly successful Blueberry Blast Festival that she helped found.

Finding work for herself and keeping busy through self-employment and various projects keeps this hardworking Ojibway woman always on the go.
“If I didn’t do all that, maybe I’d be working a job I didn’t like.”

She is a restaurant owner of Red Willow, Red Rock Indian Band Elder, director on the local literacy board and education committee, is a member of the regional development board, and a mentor to businesswomen through the Nipigon New Beginnings Circle. She is fluent in the Ojibway language and shares her cultural knowledge with others.

The lack of formal schooling, never affected her capacity to work, organize or bring unlimited enthusiasm to anything she’s taken on. “I think I’ve taught myself for whatever (project) I’ve gotten into.”

“We have so much fun in our area. The more you work, the happier you get.”

Above all, she has an unrelenting capacity to give without asking.

When the daughter of a bed-ridden senior citizen approached Norma to ask her to design and sew clothing to fit her mother, it was not a problem for Norma who made sure the clothes were pretty and colourful too.

As a keeper of Native tradition, Norma’s blue sky project is a teaching lodge.

Her vision for the Grey Wolf Teaching Lodge will likely require approaching various funding agencies for capital dollars, something she struggles with.

“I don’t like money,” she said bluntly. “To me it’s a monster.”
And when it comes to regional community and social development, she is mindful that every resident must be treated respectfully as a single individual.

As part of the Robinson Superior Treaty Women’s Council, she journeyed to 21 First Nation communities to listen and document the plight of suffering women “who put their hearts on the table.”

One thing that will spur her to action is people struggling.

One of her nominators sums Norma up best. She does not drive, but always gets to where she is to be. She is not rich, but gives freely. She does not accept the word, “No” or “Can’t.”
To Norma, all things are possible.