Family violence on First Nations focus of youth conference

Area First Nation youths learn about berry fasting at the ‘Our History, Our Family, Our Connections, Building Strong Relationships’ youth conference last week at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre.

LITTLE CURRENT—Whitefish River First Nation, Sheguiandah First Nation, Wikwemikong and Zhiibaahassing First Nation joined forces to organize the ‘Our History, Our Family, Our Connections, Building Strong Relationships’ youth conference last week at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre.

“We felt that family violence is something that is prevalent in many First Nation communities and wanted to address this problem,” explained Whitefish River First Nation Health and Social Service Manager Leslie McGregor, who helped organize the conference. “There is a lot of reasons that it exists, but we wanted to come from a direction of building strength and targeting youth between the ages of 12-18 because we think they are going to be the change makers. If we start with youth, they can break the cycle of abuse and build families and communities back up, from the ground up.”

Bringing in the Great Lakes Cultural Camp as facilitators, organizers wanted to strengthen youth through passing on cultural knowledge.

The one-day cultural education program was a highly interactive and experiential session with youth, which focussed on teaching Anishinabek history with regards to how children were raised to become healthy citizens of their families and communities.

“Students will have simulated ‘living experience’ of each of the ceremonies that helped tribal citizens move from birth through end-of-life by the use of ceremonies that marked their progress of life in becoming healthy citizens,” explained the program from the Great Lakes Cultural Camps. “Teachings from each ceremony were shared and youth will identify how these teachings can create a ‘cultural kindness and goodwill’ in today’s family and community. Students will have an opportunity to state one commitment they can make to their family/community to create a better and safer place to live.”

“The day went really well,” said Ms. McGregor. “We had 56 youth attend the conference and received a lot of positive feedback. We really hope that it will make a difference and help end the silence and stop the violence.”