Port Hardy RCMP officers Mark Mackinnon and Tyson Doyle get to work helping Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Chief Thomas Henderson build a smokehouse. (Chris Voller photo)

Port Hardy Mounties help First Nation chief build smokehouse

‘We have great maya’xala for all the community members, in each of the communities…’

Actions speak louder than words, a point that was definitely proven when members of the Port Hardy RCMP chipped in and lent a First Nation’s chief a hand when he needed it the most.

It was back on Sept. 10 when Corp. Chris Voller noted he had seen Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Chief Thomas Henderson (TK) post on social media that he was “feeling a bit down about his age, as he was trying to build a smokehouse by himself, and had fallen and tumbled down an embankment on his property. I texted him and told him we would be at his house on Monday to help him.”

That very same week, Cst. Mark Mackinnon was starting his first set of shifts as Port Hardy’s new Indigenous Policing Services officer, after having been unanimously selected by all three local Indigenous leaderships.

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“It seemed the perfect way to get to make an introduction,” stated Voller. “I have previous carpentry experience, and TK needed a little support.”

Cst. Tyson Doyle was on shift that day when he heard Voller and Mackinnon talking and then offered to lend a hand and help out with the building of the smokehouse.

“Doyle was welcomed into TK’s potlatch for passing on his Chiefdom, and he wanted to return the favour to TK,” stated Voller. “Each one of us was well aware that time we spent helping him was time that we would need to stay past our shift to get our other duties done as well, and I am proud to say that the members I work alongside of happily view circumstances such as this as an honour to participate in, and an investment within the community and within our organization.”

Voller added that after years of friendship, he knows all too well about TK’s passion for passing on the teachings of his community’s traditions. “Helping to build a smokehouse was an excellent opportunity to show Mark, and community members, that we don’t have to be bound by just the antiquated stereotypical perceptions of what police do, or can do. It was one more way to be innovative and demonstrate our continued efforts toward reconciliation, building community trust, and helping my brother, ‘Hilamas,’ build a smokehouse for his family and community; all at the same time.”

TK’s smokehouse will be a place where he can continue to teach the youth, and a few lucky police officers, more of the culture and traditional ways of preparing foods as he was taught by his elders when he was a child, in their homelands prior to their forced relocation.

“We have great maya’xala for all the community members, in each of the communities we are privileged to serve in,” added Voller. “I know that TK and his wife Linda would do the same thing for any one of us, so decisions to be involved, or lead initiatives like this, don’t require much thought.”


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The smokehouse starting to take shape. (Chris Voller photo)

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