by Bernadette Maracle, Prevention Manager for ANCFSAO
The 2019 Elders Gathering, hosted by Mnaasged Child and Family Services and ANCFSAO, ran for three days from September 24th-26th in Muncee-Delaware Territory, bringing together Elders from Indigenous child and family well-being agencies from across Ontario.
Elders, helpers, and cultural coordinators came together
to discuss the future of child welfare. Friends were reunited and new
friendships were formed, with hugs, tears, and smiles exchanged constantly
throughout the three-day event.
During the gathering, attendees heard amazing words of
wisdom about the teaching of the big drum, giving tobacco, honour songs, and women
supporting the drums by standing around the men singing and drumming.
The Mnaasged Cultural Coordinator, Nicholas Deleary,
spoke on the history of their communities and why the agency operates in
Southern Ontario: they are in the centre of a triangle, between three sacred
water women points, one being Niagara Falls.
Gordon Peters, Deputy Grand Chief from Association of
Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI), spoke about legislation developments
concerning Indigenous child welfare and what can be done to improve and correct
Beatrice Twance-Hynes, a Juno-nominated hand-drummer, played
several of her songs for the group and shared teachings about playing and caring
Attendees heard a powerful story from an Elder about a
men’s healing gathering, his story of years of abuse at a residential school,
and his creation of a healing program for men suffering from trauma.
Larry Jourdain emphasized the concepts of cultural arbitration
and cultural congruency over phrases like “culturally appropriate” or
“culturally sensitive”, as communities are looking to implement a practise that
puts culture at the centre of families’ healing and strengthening.
Nogdawindamin has 26 cultural workers with 800 referrals
last year and 600 so far this year. The Cultural Unit covers requests for
ceremonies, teachings and workshops, assistance with circles, staff support and
team building, events, community support, and collaboration and partnerships.
Ceremonies include those dedicated to finding clan and colours, naming,
baby-welcoming, walking out, adoption, and reunification. The agency hosts annual
events and ceremonies by the season.
Feasts, drumming, and sunrise ceremonies bonded the group
and kept discussions and teachings grounded in the culture and surrounding
nature, and a karaoke night filled the grounds with music and laughter.
This was my first time attending the annual Elders
Gathering. I learned new teachings, made new contacts, and was filled with inspiration.
Coming from Six Nations, I do not have very much knowledge of the Anishinaabe
traditional teachings and appreciated hearing the teachings and stories from
It was a beautiful event and I look forward to learning
even more next year.