NOSM University Elder Frank Ozawagosh honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award from Anishinabek NationPosted on February 5, 2024
Husband and wife team Frank and Julie Ozawagosh have been a mainstay at NOSM University since its inception in 2005. Recently, Frank was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Anishinabek Nation—a distinction awarded to Julie in 2015.
Recognized as Elders at NOSM University, Frank and Julie prefer to be called by the Anishinaabe words Mishomis (grandfather) and Nookomis (grandmother). Their involvement at NOSM University began when the medical school reached out to them about leading a ceremony at the grand opening. Soon after, Frank and Julie began welcoming medical learners to the Sweat Lodge at their home. “We just became part of NOSM University after that. We became part of the fixture,” says Julie, who describes them as NOSM University’s inaugural Mishomis and Nookomis.
Frank recalls, “In the beginning, I didn’t want to be a part of NOSM University. I ended up changing my mind. I thought, ‘I can be a small part of all the change that’s happening.’ I ended up saying, ‘I’ll be there.’ It’s been a beautiful journey.”
The award recognized Frank’s contributions to his community of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, sharing the ways of his ancestors, his time and his knowledge of ceremonies and teachings.
“It’s an honour to be recognized for everything that I’ve done. I did a lot of the things that I wanted to do,” he says. A passionate and life-long athlete in many sports including baseball, hockey, bowling, running, and—most recently—golf, Frank likens his proud commitment to community work to dedication in sport.
For Frank, an important project has been maintaining the community’s cemetery on his own time. He explains, “Years ago, I drove by the old cemetery, and I couldn’t even see it. That’s where the village used to be and that’s where our ancestors are buried. Band members travel there, but many never even knew that there was a cemetery there. The trees were 20, 30 feet tall. I didn’t feel good because it wasn’t looked after. I’ve been taking care of it now for eight or nine years. I go once a week, cut the grass, trim all around. I feel good going out there, knowing that everything our ancestors did, they did for the community and for our future.”
The Ozawagoshes share that ceremonies and teachings are an important way to heal from multi-generational trauma caused by colonialism. Many people are “walking with inner trauma,” says Julie. “We work with kindness and gentleness.”
And kindness can be contagious. Julie points out that when NOSM University or other organizations want to have an Elder, she and Frank are often mentioned. “The word comes up when you do something good,” she says.
Frank was among 17 Anishinabek citizens honoured at the awards event, held in late October at Casino Rama in Chippewas of Rama First Nation. He was recognized for living and walking mino bimaadiziwin (the good life.)
“When the awards committee asked me to say a few words, I didn’t know what to say. I’m a man of action and not a man of words,” explains Frank. “I wanted to do it because it felt good, and I knew it needed to be done.”