This month’s Co-op Community Champion is a well known Indigenous advocate in the region.

Co-op highlights people in Fort St. John who should be recognized for the work they do in the community. Anyone looking to nominate a community-minded person in need of recognition, head to Energeticcity’s website.

This month’s Champion is Connie Greyeyes, the Northern Case Manager for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls through the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

Greyeyes was born and raised in Fort St. John after her parents moved from northern Alberta in 1948 and is a Bigstone Cree Nation member.

“Connie is that person in our community that helps pull things together during difficult times. She has been a pillar to the First Nations communities during COVID-19 by preparing countless numbers of meals. She has helped families & friends raise money to help cover funeral expenses. She bakes cinnamon buns, muffins, cookies, bannock and more, and gives them away to people who need them. She’s the real deal. She gives from the heart with no expectations of ever receiving anything in return,” read one of two nominations for Greyeyes.

Generally, community-minded people don’t act in the hope of receiving recognition; the same goes for our Community Champions, the same goes for Greyeyes. However, it’s always nice to be acknowledged.

“It is certainly really heartwarming to hear and to know that people see that you’re just trying to be a good person and support people in the best way that you can,” says Greyeyes.

Reflecting on when her parents invited people in for a meal, Greyeyes learned to support people going through a rough time.

“My mom and dad set me up for my life’s work.”

Creating a large social media presence in the area, Greyeyes uses her platform to share her love for the Vancouver Canucks, raise funds for funeral expenses, share her experiences, and hold people accountable, including local politicians.

” I think that so many years ago, I never would have— I was deep in addiction.  I have made a conscious effort to make sure to hold people accountable, and one thing that I did learn along this journey is that I can call out that behaviour and I can hold them accountable, but I’m not responsible for the consequences.”

To open yourself up to opposing views, you have to have tough conversations, says Greyeyes. Recently, she spoke with Energeticcity on her experiences with COVID-19, hoping to break the stigma surrounding the virus.

” All of these things are coming up now, and if you’re not willing to try and see the other side, and take that opportunity for that exchange of learning, then what’s the point? So I don’t put things on Facebook or my social media to argue; I put them on there so that we can have a good conversation if need be.”

As a case manager, Greyeyes offers support and opportunities for family members that are faced with missing or murdered loved ones. Before becoming employed, she was doing similar work for her friends.

“I would seek out opportunities to have workshops and things like that. I never thought that after all of these years of just kind of volunteering and trying to be empathetic and supportive to community members of family members that I would land a job that would give me that opportunity to continue to support families and loved ones in such a good and important way.”

A factor that sparked Greyeyes’ advocacy journey came after a loved one was murdered in Edmonton in 1993.

“The women that have gone missing or have been murdered, their cases need to be highlighted; we need to remember those and help the family find justice.”

Greyeyes says these families inspire her to continue supporting the community the best she can.

“I say all the time, what an honour it is to work with families of missing and murdered women and girls, and they teach me so much about being kind, empathetic, supportive, and having perseverance. It really shows that the human heart has the capacity to overcome so much, especially when it comes to a missing and murdered loved one, that you can continue to love and be a good person.”

Co-op’s Community Champion is highlighting people in Fort St. John who should be recognized for the work they do in the community. Anyone looking to nominate a community-minded person in need of recognition, head to Energeticcity’s website.