Chris Wemigwans saw the Water First Internship as a chance to learn valuable skills and lay the groundwork for a career in his home community. Chris was hired by Aundeck Omni Kaning (AOK) after the internship and is now working as an OIT at the local water treatment plant.
Born and raised in Aundeck Omni Kaning, Chris moved to Wikwemikong when he was 19. After 20 years in that community, he returned home to AOK to be with his partner, her children and their three grandchildren. “They are my life and the reason I’m here,” he said.
After returning to AOK, Chris got a job working at a fish farm, but found the work too rigorous. After a short time unemployed, he learned about the Water First Internship. He jumped at the chance to receive training as a Water Quality Analyst, and to gain valuable experience in the field and have steady, paid work for a year and a half.
“I like it because it’s environmentally based,” he said. “As I’m getting older I’m starting to think about the generations that are coming. This is important work.”
Initially overwhelmed at the amount of information involved in testing water, twelve weeks in Chris started to feel comfortable with the work. “It’s really great to get so much hands-on experience,” he said. “For me, hands-on is so much easier to learn.”
Chris worked as a carpenter during his time in Wiki, and enrolled on three different occasions to take Electrical training at Canadore College in North Bay. Each time, circumstances interfered and brought him back to the island.
In Wiki he also discovered a love for theatre and improv, spending five years working with the Debajehmujig Storytellers theatre group. Chris travelled all over northern Ontario with that organization, visiting remote First Nations communities and introducing young people to the cathartic joy of improv performance. Typically, the group would stay in a community for a week, helping young people to create a show that would be performed on their last night there.
“It was amazing,” said Chris, who was trained in suicide intervention and other counselling techniques as part of the job. “Many of the kids were dealing with difficult situations, and they would really come out of themselves.”