2019 IW Winners

Aboriginal Leadership - Atikokan

Marlene Davidson

Marlene Davidson

Meetings of the Atikokan and Area Métis Council can’t begin unless Marlene Davidson delivers or calls for the opening prayer.

Davidson, who never knew of her Indigenous roots until a few years ago, describes these communal gatherings as a kind of “homecoming.”

“It’s always a prayer about giving thanks, about who we are, about the Earth that we live on, and how we need to protect it.”

In her duties as president of the Atikokan Métis Council, which she chartered 10 years ago, Davidson is frequently on the highways of northwestern Ontario or in the air to Toronto. She is often in discussions and working on agreements between resource companies and the government regarding the rights-bearing Métis communities.

Her ancestry and the guidance offered through the Seven Sacred teachings provide peace of mind and a spiritual grounding.

“They are so simple and so direct. It’s about everyday life.”

Being at the head of the table or in front of the class is a familiar place for the Atikokan resident. Even with two grown children and six grandchildren, she remains as busy as ever.

In an ongoing life of public and humanitarian service, Davidson always steps forward to fill the gap.

Whether it’s chairing the Local Family Health Team and library boards or working on the local hospital board, Davidson is front and centre. One of her nominators wrote: “She epitomizes the Northern spirit of what it means to be a balanced and beautiful woman of integrity, values and ethics.”

“When you see something that needs doing, you do it,” said Davidson, who served during a span of 13 years on the Town of Atikokan council. “Everybody wants the same things for their homes and families. They want peace, good health and happiness.

“I don’t very often sit and think about what I’ve done. My kids keep saying, you’ve got to cut back, so I don’t tell them all of what I do,” said a laughing Davidson. Growing up in a dusty, blue-collar era when women’s voices didn’t always carry, the feisty Davidson developed her work ethic and persistence over a 35-year teaching career, including a six-year stint in a one-room school in a pulp and paper camp.

“You learn from those kinds of experiences. People give up too easy today.” Her abiding passion for children led to a more than 25-year association as board chair of the Atikokan Public Library and the launch of the Children’s Entertainment Series, which she chaired for 23 years. She also started the Future Links Junior Golf program which she led for 10 years.

“When I was small, we couldn’t afford books. I was a spontaneous reader and the school library was what I treasured. I have been called ‘the Keeper of the Library’ by some.”

During times when the regional economy suffered, Davidson sought to promote cross-border tourism with Minnesota through the Heart of the Continent program, and succeeded in helping to extend the Trans-Canada Trail down Atikokan’s main street.

She ran a bed and breakfast, The Paddler’s Rest, and was involved in the family business, Eva Lake Mining, a mining contracting and remediation company. Davidson was also a founding member of the Women in Mining, Thunder Bay- Northwestern Ontario branch.

In realizing the great potential of northwestern Ontario and the need for this region’s voice to be heard in Ottawa and Queen’s Park, Davidson approaches each task with a sense of urgency. That’s why she refuses to cut back on her schedule.

“There are so many possibilities that are just ready to happen,” said Davidson. “There’s always something that catches my eye.”