Nova Scotia, Sydney — Thursday was a special day for the Goodwill, Tootosis and Cuthand families.
Our aunt, sister and sister-in-law, Jean Cuthand Goodwill, was honored in a special ceremony when a Canadian Coast Guard vessel was commissioned in her name. Wayne Goodwill, Eric Tootosis, and I represented our family at the ceremony.
Jean’s mother died soon after she was born. My grandparents Jose and Harriet Katand adopted her and she raised her in Little Pine First Nation.Her father was John Tootosis, a long-time influential Indigenous politician. was.
Jean attended day school at Little Pine First Nation and after eighth grade she attended Bedford Road College in Saskatoon. She contracted tuberculosis while in the city and she was sent to Prince Albert’s sanatorium. She received her twelfth grade there, and after her discharge, she attended nursing school at Prince Albert Holly, where she graduated in 1954.
My grandmother was a midwife and a pharmacist. She gave birth to many babies born in Little Pine as well as babies born in Poundmaker. Her influence, combined with that of Sun’s nurses, made it unquestionable that Gene was interested in pursuing her nursing career.
After working briefly in a hospital, she soon applied to the Department of Health and Human Services and became part of the Medical Services Division, which provides medical services to high-status Indians.
Jean has been appointed head of the Nursing Station in La Ronge. It was quite a leap for a nurse fresh out of school to be appointed head of a clinic. She had medical transportation and maintenance services from her nursing assistant Alice Keely, and Arthur Sanderson.
It was Canada’s first all-Indigenous nursing station.
Jean and Alice were supposed to serve the indigenous community, while La Longe was a mixed community of Métis and settlers. In addition to delivering babies, treating accidental injuries and illnesses, and removing fishing hooks from American tourists, she was a first responder for the entire community.
After about five years, she was exhausted. Her workload was too much, so she looked elsewhere for her job. It turned out to be a Bermuda hospital, where she could continue her work and rest.
Meanwhile, Jean is reunited with Tootoosis’ family. As she said, she was blessed with two families.
In 1965 she married Ken Goodwill of Standing Buffalo First Nation of Saskatchewan.
Upon returning to Canada, she joined the federal civil service, working for Indian Affairs and the Secretary of State.
In 1981, Health Canada’s Department of Health Services bureaucrats drastically cut service delivery, sparking a storm of opposition from the First Nations community. As an act of reconciliation, the reduction was later reversed and Jean was hired as a special advisor on First Nations health matters.
She saw an opportunity to create lasting change. Gene worked to develop a reserve clinic, and after a protracted battle, the department began to realize the value of providing medical services in the community. Today, almost every First Nations has a clinic.
Jean stayed humble and never gave up on building a better health program. She helped found the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association and worked with Dr. Una Evans at the University of Saskatchewan to develop the Indian and Inuit Access Program for Nursing.
Gene received an honorary doctorate from the Order of Canada and Queen’s University. She was also strong in her own culture and traditions. She and Ken were part of the Pow Wow Trail in the summer.
The Canadian Coast Guard Vessel (CCGS) Gene Goodwill is a medium-sized icebreaker that transited the Northwest Passage most of last year and is already active in the Arctic. Icebreakers also clear sea lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Jean Goodwill is aptly named and, like her namesake, continues to act as a protector and aid provider.
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