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Community Health Worker; Shirley McNab

From Health and Welfare Canada

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1989      p18  
Native women play an important role in the development of Indian communities. Whether they work outside the home or not, they are teachers and role models for Native youth. On the Gordon Reserve there is a Native woman who has played an important role in her community's development and the development of others. That woman is Shirley McNab.

Shirley was born at the Fort Qu'Appelle Indian Hospital and, after her mother died when Shirley was very young, she was raised by her grandparents on the Pasqua Reserve. It was from her grandfather that Shirley learned the importance of honesty and sharing and these values led to her extensive involvement in her community.

Shirley was married in 1960, and spent fourteen years at home raising her son and three daughters. In 1974 she joined Medical Services Branch (MSB) as a Community Health Representative (CHR) at Gordon Reserve, and today is the only CHR in the province still employed directly by MSB; all other CHRs in Saskatchewan are employed by bands under funding arrangements with Medical Services Branch. She also took a leave of absence in 1981/82 to take the Certified Nurses' Assistant's Course at Kelsey Institute in Saskatoon.

Shirley's involvement in the community is wide and varied. She has been involved with Porkey's Camp (a children's summer camp) since 1972, she was Supply Officer for the army cadets in 1978, and currently teaches them first aid courses. She is also serving on the Fort Qu'Appelle Indian Hospital Board, Gordon's School Advisory Board, the Band School and Health Committee, Recreation Board, the National CHR Committee and is the Chairperson for the Saskatchewan CHR Association. She volunteers annually at Santa Day, the Elder's Supper and various other community events.

When she is not volunteering her time to her community, Shirley can be found playing with her five grandchildren, curled up in a corner reading western novels or knitting Afghans and sweaters for her family and friends. You might also find her at a community dance, enjoying another one of her favourite pastimes -old time dancing.

When asked what she sees as the role of Native women in their communities today, Shirley replied that "they have both a leadership role and a support role. Women have to take a leadership role and become actively involved in community development activities. They also have an important role to play as Band Council members." In the increasingly complex role of wife, mother and community leader, Native women rely heavily on the wisdom and advice of the female Elders in their communities. They also rely on the support of other women as they strive to fulfil their various roles. The support that they provide each other becomes increasingly important as their role expands.

Shirley sees the professional development of individual women in Indian communities as important for the development of the community as a whole. Native women have a role to play in their communities as teachers, nurses, social workers, and in other less traditional fields, such as computer technology. As role models for children and young people in the community, Native women have the responsibility of showing them that they can be whatever they want to be and do whatever they want to do.

Shirley McNab has served as such a role model... MSB is proud of her ... and her community is proud of her.