TORONTO – Vern Harper, an elder and traditional healer in Toronto, needs financial help — so supporters of his are reaching out to the community on his behalf.
“He was a mentor to me and his motto has always been ‘serve the people’,” said Giibwanisi, from the Vern Harper Support Committee. “Even if people don’t recognize his name, they would be familiar with some of the great work he’s done.”
Harper is an elder, author, medicine man and aboriginal rights activist. He’s recognized by his peers for bringing politics, ceremony, heritage and language to the forefront of indigenous urban survival.
“He’s helped countless native people who suffer from alcohol or drug addictions during his time working at CAMH (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto),” said Giibwanisi.
A few years ago Harper was let go from his job at CAMH and has since struggled to find steady work. While he is working small jobs here and there, the money is not stretching far enough to help cover the expensive costs of living in Toronto.
“He needs help to pay his rent, buy food and let him continue managing the sweat lodge in Guelph,” said Giibwanisi.
Vern Harper’s actions have promoted decolonization and have touched many indigenous lives in Toronto and beyond. Harper wants to focus on spending the rest of his days carrying out his traditional roles as an elder in a diverse urban indigenous community.
Anyone who wants to donate can do so through Nathan Prier’s PayPal account. Prier is the support committee’s main fundraiser.
“Our teachings say that we should help out everybody who needs it,” said Giibwanisi. “Even if that person doesn’t live in your specific community we should still all reach out.”
You can donate at www.paypal.me/torontosupport. Please write “Vern Harper Support” somewhere in the donation message.