Revitalizing Indigenous Cultural Practices Key to Ending Gender-based Violence
Toronto, March 1, 2021 – The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) has released a comprehensive report demonstrating the connections between youth engagement in cultural rights-of-passage ceremonies and eliminating gender-based violence. Both on- and off-reserve, urban and rural, Indigenous communities are facing an epidemic of violence. By exploring the contemporary landscape of ceremonies, life-stage transitions, and other cultural practices with Indigenous youth in Ontario, findings revealed these practices as a key link in the reduction of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Stemming from the root of colonial violence, Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are a more vulnerable population and are disproportionately more likely to experience violence in their lifetime. Indigenous women are six times more likely to be a victim of homicide than non-Indigenous women. Two-Spirit and trans people experience violence nearly five times more often than their peers.
The report, Ceremony and Transitions: Culture-based Approaches to Violence Prevention, is the result of a year-long study led by OFIFC researchers alongside four partner organizations engaged in research to further emphasize cultural practices.
Youth were identified as the key audience to engage with and the researchers explored:
- Reviving language, land-based activities and regalia-making at Ininew Friendship Centre in Cochrane
- Indigenous curriculum and diverse leadership at St. David Catholic Elementary School in Sudbury
- Ohero:kon (Under the Husk) youth mentorship program at Six Nations of the Grand River
- Reviewing the insufficiencies of the colonial justice system, and renewing Indigenous justice traditions and legal principles at N’Amerind Friendship Centre in London
Each community partner highlighted their own traditional Indigenous value systems and ways of living. In such environments, gender-based violence is unacceptable. Participants learned healthy ways of relating to one another and how to make healthy choices as foundational practices for dealing with colonial violence. Restoring a sense of identity and self-worth fostered community respect and belonging.
Known as “Everyday Good Living,” Indigenous cultural practices make it possible to live well on the land, achieve social cohesion within community, and engage in reciprocal and respectful relationships with all. Through ceremony at times of transition, youth are invited into these practices, becoming personally and collectively responsible for upholding them.
“Our communities know how to prevent violence. They hold knowledge and practices that are essential for Indigenous people to lead safe and healthy lives,” says OFIFC Executive Director, Sylvia Maracle. “Each community brings perspectives relevant to them, and by involving youth, these lessons will live on and can be used to envision and implement projects moving forward. Indigenous communities must actively contribute to gender-based violence prevention projects in consistent and long-term ways in order to foster trust and acceptance.”
In order to support this work to end gender-based violence, four over-arching recommendations were identified:
- Restoration of Indigenous relationships
- Implementation of Indigenous teachings and cultural practices
- Long-term community-driven research
- Strengthening existing programs and initiatives to encourage integration and long-term impact
OFIFC shares these insights in the hope that they can benefit other Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous partners working toward ending gender-based violence.
The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) represents the collective interests of 29 Friendship Centres in cities and towns across the province. Friendship Centres are places for community members and Indigenous people living in urban spaces to gather, connect with one another and receive culturally based services. Friendship Centres improve the lives of urban Indigenous people by supporting self-determined activities which encourage equal access to, and participation in, Canadian society while respecting Indigenous cultural distinctiveness.
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