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Onion Lake Elder Appointed To The Order Of Canada

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1989      p03  
Gus Waskewitch
Gus Waskewitch

Gus Waskewitch, of Onion Lake in Saskatchewan, has been appointed to the Order of Canada in recognition of service to his community and Indian people in Saskatchewan. Onion Lake is about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster.

Over the past quarter-century, Mr. Waskewitch served on his council, played a key role in the construction of a new school at Onion Lake and devoted extensive efforts to developing and maintaining alcohol and drug abuse treatment services in Onion Lake.

The Order of Canada was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and service by individuals. Selection is based on a review of nominations that can be sent in by any person or organization. The Onion Lake Band Council sent in Mr. Waskewitch's nomination because of the guidance he provided and still provides to the band.

Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Council, says the appointment is an achievement the entire band is proud of.

"We're proud that one of our people who has done a lot of work in the community is receiving this recognition - it represents not only his work but also the progress of Treaty Indian people", Chief Fox explains.

Although Mr. Waskewitch is very proud of his appointment, he does not expect awards for his efforts in the community. When asked about his community work, Mr. Waskewitch says he doesn't think about whether he's going to receive praise.

"My general aim is that if I am going to do something, then I try to do it right," he says. "If I see my work out there, then that's my pat on the back." He pauses, then adds, "And I don't see my work out there, then I think I better work harder."

Now able to boast of 40 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, Mr. Waskewitch has held a keen interest in education for many years. Shortly after being elected to the Onion Lake Band Council in 1968, he was active in lobbying and planning for a new school on the Reserve. At that time, there were two small schools which were quickly becoming overcrowded. In 1973, the Council was successful in the getting the first section of the new school completed. Today, the Onion Lake School, completely band operated, offers services through to grade twelve with programs considered among the best and most innovative in Saskatchewan.

It was in the early seventies that Mr. Waskewitch began his still continuing work combatting drug and alcohol abuse. With the help of other individuals and funding from the federal government, he established a small counselling service program in Onion Lake. He later helped develop a rehabilitation centre in Meadow Lake and is very proud of the Eskweskeet rehabilitation centre that is now part of his own community.

In addition to being on the Board of the Rehabilitation centre, Mr. Waskewitch also speaks to young people about drug abuse. He tries to impart a belief in spirituality to fill a void he sees in the lives of many people.

"I talk about the spirituality of the elders and virtues of life," he says.

Mr. Waskewitch retired from the Onion Lake Band Council in 1984 after 16 years service but his duties don't allow him much time to rest on his laurels. His advisory capacity as an FSIN Senator and as a member of the Council of Elders demand several days a month, but for residents of Onion Lake, Mr. Waskewitch says he's always available.

"I have always wanted to serve my people as a leader and I think I have achieved that," he reflects with a note of pride. "If someone needs my help, I will give it to them."