It is well known that First Nation people all across this country suffer from diabetes and heart disease. The Cree of James Bay started to develop these health problems decades ago when so-called progress came to our remote First Nations. Some of us ended up with jobs working for the local band administration, the hospital or in education. Many of us left our communities to seek education and work elsewhere. Those hard and demanding days of living mostly on the land began to fade away.

Thanks to the remoteness of so many First Nations there are still a lot of my people living part time on the land in the traditional ways of our ancestors. However, most of these people are Elders as the young among us have fallen into so many negative lifestyles that don’t permit or allow for life on the land.

Over the decades, life for many changed and became hopeless for younger people. There were not enough employment opportunities in our communities and governments encouraged a cycle of dependency. Past governments created the residential school systems right across Canada and stole children from First Nation families. These experiences affected a few generations in tragic negative ways. While other Canadians found growth and prosperity in their communities we could only dream of the luxurious lives we saw daily on television or read about in magazines and newspapers.

Many of my people fell into terrible addictions with alcohol and drugs. I have seen the devastation myself in my short time in this life. I have known too many family members, friends, neighbours and acquaintances come to tragic endings. Still, I have hope for the future because I also see that in fact a huge number of us have survived and have discovered the ways and means to live clean and sober lives. This process is ongoing and will continue so that more of our young people will find a balance in their lives and be able to move ahead with education and become contributing members of society.

I have known many leaders, Elders and dedicated Aboriginal health and education professionals over the past couple of decades that committed themselves to assisting our youth to become healthier in mind and body. Through education in terms of addictions, suicide prevention, self-awareness and self-confidence many young people have been given a helping hand up. Many discovered a connection with the past that has helped to heal and encourage First Nation youth all across this country.

I am constantly reminded that life is a struggle. I am extremely happy and grateful to be clean and sober and in recovery from alcoholism, but I have also become a junk food addict. So many of my people have addictions to junk food and combined with living a more modern couchpotato lifestyle we are dying early with diabetes and heart disease. To make matters worse most of us have also discovered the Internet and we spend countless hours surfing the web and chatting on social media.

Recently, when I decided to help a friend out with a construction project I was amazed at what bad shape I was in. When I started to dig and lift and build I thought I could keep up the same pace and effort. I was shocked to find myself tiring easily and at the end of the day my entire body was sore. I recalled what a doctor had told me during a recent check up. He noted that I was overweight and should start to eat healthier and exercise more.

Happily I have discovered that one easy thing I can do is to walk 10,000 steps every day. Many health experts suggest that 10,000 steps is a good goal for anyone who wants to burn calories and get in shape. By committing myself to walking 10,000 steps every day I also find it is easier to make good food choices as I am feeling better and that makes me more interested in making more positive decisions. To keep track of your steps it is as easy as using most modern smartphones with built in pedometers or you can purchase small and inexpensive pedometers to keep you on track. Drag yourself away from your laptop, computer or television and get on a treadmill or better still open up the door and head outside for your 10,000 steps. Your life will be better for it.