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Electrician John Paul Kohoko keeps his Indigenous roots alive

John Paul Kohoko works as an Electrical and Control Technician at Stewartville GS. Here he is seen wearing his First Nation's traditional regalia.
John Paul Kohoko works as an Electrical and Control Technician at Stewartville GS. Here he is seen wearing his First Nation's traditional regalia.

Before joining OPG, electrician John Paul Kohoko tried his hand at various jobs before finding his true calling.

He was a firefighter for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Renfrew County, a member of council for his First Nation, the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, and a deputy conservation officer for his community.

After acquiring his electrician’s licence in 2008, he worked for local contractors in Renfrew County before a chance opportunity in 2013 opened the door to his career with OPG.

“One day, a rep with the Canadian Union of Skilled Workers came by our First Nation asking if anybody had any trades experience,” Kohoko said. “They were having a hard time filling roles in some of the rural hydro stations. My name popped up and that’s when the ball started rolling.”

The next thing he knew, he found himself working at OPG’s Stewartville Generating Station (GS) on the Madawaska River near Arnprior in eastern Ontario.

After more than four years serving as a temporary maintenance worker at Stewartville and nearby Chats Falls GS, Kohoko turned full-time in 2017. He’s now working as an Electrical and Control Technician at Stewartville, providing his expertise and support for key projects that help keep the five-unit, 182-megawatt station generating clean power reliably.

“It felt like a big accomplishment,” he said about his experience getting hired on. “Just getting your foot in the door in a big company like OPG, it’s a tough task and there are lots of hoops to get through. But I just work hard every day, people notice the hard work and they believe in me to do the job”

Today, Kohoko’s role involves detailing the scope of work for projects, ensuring proper work protection, and overseeing the quality of work of the contractors on the job.

He has worked on a number of projects, including the replacement of head gate controls in Stewartville’s Units 1, 2, and 3, the installation of new static exciters on Units 4 and 5, and is now supporting the replacement of key pump valves at the station.

“I really like it here at Stewartville. I know the station and there’s always something different to do,” Kohoko said. “I really like the hands-on work and the equipment we work on is pretty substantial.”

He is also very passionate about his family and preserving his Indigenous traditions and culture.

In 2016, Kohoko donated a kidney to his father, Garry, which gave him four more years to enjoy with family and friends before he passed away last year.

“His spirt will always live on in my heart,” he said.

Living in Pikwakanagan First Nation his entire life, Kohoko regularly finds himself staying connected to the land and enjoying the outdoors with his wife, three kids, and grandchildren. Together, they hunt, fish, trap, gather, and enjoy powwows, where all of his family members don their traditional regalia and dance.

“If we don’t take the time to keep our culture alive, we would lose our identity,” he explained. “So it’s very important to me as a parent to pass down the knowledge I have learned from my parents, mentors, and elders to my children and grandchildren.”

It’s a big reason he tries to stay connected to his traditional roots at work as well. He is an active member of OPG’s Indigenous Relations Circle, an employee group that works to celebrate Indigenous cultures, traditions, and teachings within the company and in the community.

And he’s keeping an eye on the redevelopment of OPG’s Calabogie hydro site, as the area has a unique family connection.

“Calabogie is on Algonquin territory and my ancestors had a trapline in that area,” he said. “It would be great to maybe help out with the project in the future and be part of that history knowing the family tree touched that area.”