Bella Moses Petawabano

Bella Moses Petawabano headshotBella Moses Petawabano is the Chairperson of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay. She has 35 years of experience working in health and social service.

Bella started as a social aide and community worker in Mistissini and served for 15 years as a senior manager at the Cree Health Board before being elected Chair in 2012. A lifelong leader, she also served as councillor in Mistissini for several years. Bella’s contribution to the Cree Health Board as Chairperson includes a reformed governance model that is now being looked at as an example of best practice by First Nations across Canada. She initiated the two regional health assemblies where community representatives, including the youth, identified priorities for health and social services. These priorities became the core of the Cree Health Board’s strategic regional plan and Bella’s lifelong dream of bringing birthing back to Eeyou Istchee is now a reality.

From 1965 to 1966, Bella received teachings for a girl with her family on their lands, learning skills and teachings that she has carried into adult life. She graduated from high school in Rouyn-Noranda, learning French while boarding with a francophone family. She went on to train as a Medical Secretary at Algonquin College. After getting married to Buckley Petawabano and starting a family, Bella completed a Certificate of Social Work at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi and went on to earn a Bachelor of Social Work at McGill University.

 Bella was born on her family’s trapline on the Eastmain River, and was raised there up to age 10; she attended residential school in Fort George from 1961 to 1965 and in 1966-67.