2011-2012 ‘Working Together’

For the past four years, Aboriginal CATCH has hosted a community gathering for families with young children.  Our theme in 2011 was a family dance, an idea suggested by some of the people who attended in the previous year.
Aboriginal CATCH represents Westbank First Nation, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, Métis Community Services Society of BC, as well as Success By 6 and the Community Action Toward Children’s Health – CATCH coalition for early years development in Central Okanagan.
We honour and respect the territory of the syilx (Okanagan) people and we are grateful to have use of the Sensisyusten gym at Westbank First Nation for the gathering each year.  We also recognize the large population of urban First Nations and Métis people in Central Okanagan.  The dance was a perfect way to bring diverse Aboriginal cultures together so that families with young children could share pride and knowledge of their cultures.

Starting with an elder welcoming everyone to syilx territory and the Okanagan song, or anthem sung by two young men,  to the gentle and dignified dance of grandmothers wearing exquisite regalia, to the high energy Métis jigging accompanied by lively teenaged fiddlers, and finally to a friendship dance and closing prayer, there was agreement among participants that Aboriginal CATCH should continue this tradition of celebrating young children and bringing all generations together for a unique and enjoyable cultural evening.

2011/12 Fathers’ Panel

Sandra, a member of the Aboriginal CATCH team shared her excitement about a conference sponsored by the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health where she heard a group of fathers tell about their strong desire to connect with their families, despite many barriers resulting from colonialism and residential schools.
Aboriginal CATCH agreed that fathers often are not a top priority in working with families who have young children, so we made a plan to bring attention to fathers by hosting a panel similar to the one Sandra had witnessed.  We started by ordering a DVD and other research information from University of Victoria’s Early Childhood Development Intercultural Partnerships and shared these with some fathers suggested by our team members as strong role models.  
The panelists and facilitator, including two elders helped us plan two panels.  We invited fathers and families from the entire community to attend either at Westbank First Nation and/or Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society.  (We held two panels because Central Okanagan is a large area and it is sometimes difficult for families to travel long distances to events.)
We heard powerful stories about healing from the eight panelists.  A single father, who is raising his young child, told about growing up in a series of foster homes without a father figure.  Another father told about being grateful for the cultural teachings passed down from his father at the same time as he suffered abuse from his father.  When he was still a boy, a young father lost his dad to suicide.  All of these men had the courage to tell their stories and share their healing and encouragement with other fathers.

Everyone on the panel agreed wholeheartedly that families, including fathers who experienced the negative effects of colonialism and residential schools deserve our compassion and prayers.  Now there are many fathers and grandfathers who want to reclaim the values of traditional fathers, and who are becoming more positively involved in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Aboriginal CATCH is planning how we can continue to help ‘open the door’ and support fathers in the year ahead.

2011/12 Elders’ Involvement

Part of Aboriginal CATCH’s strategic plan created in May, 2011 is to encourage more involvement with elders. We decided that the best way to begin involving elders was to form closer relationships.  We invited several elders from Westbank First Nation, and from the urban First Nations, and from the Métis communities in Central Okanagan to a lunch meeting in the fall so they could learn more about Aboriginal early years development in the community and we could find out more about them.  We used the Success By 6 Granny and Grampa Connections Box to help us get to know each other a little better.  At first, one of the elders was reluctant to take part, but as the meeting went on, she heard how others enjoyed sharing, and she volunteered to let Granny tell a story about her life.

All the elders who came to our lunch (and many others!) attended our 4th Annual Community Gathering, a community dance for families with young children.  Later the elders said they liked the way we included a variety of First Nations and Métis dancers.  Elders also liked having a syilx (Okanagan) elder who spoke in nsyilcen to welcome guests.  As well, elders told us how much they liked seeing young children dancing and having fun in a safe environment with all generations.

Elders who are fathers and grandfathers continued to be involved when they took part in two fathers’ panels hosted by Aboriginal CATCH.  Fathers of all ages helped us plan the events and took leadership in telling about what fatherhood means to them and what is important for fathers and their families.  When a younger father struggled with his emotions, an elder who was facilitating the panel gently honoured the man and led participants in respectful appreciation of the man’s courage.
We hope to continue our involvement with elders who we are getting to know in the coming year.

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