My name is Ruston Aulis Fellows. I live in Ottawa and identify as a Haudenishenaab-ishian (Onieda, Ojibway, British Canadian). I am a member of the Oneida Nation, and have familial ties to Three Fires Anishinaabe of Walpole Island Bkejwanong First Nation, and to Canadians with ancestral ties to Britain.
I was recently presented with the opportunity to write an article for the New Journey’s online Friendship Centre resource, about my thoughts on the roles of Indigenous peoples to end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
As the son of a strong and resilient Oneida woman, forever old buddy to my Ojibway grandmother, older brother of two sisters, nephew to awesome aunties and kukooms and cousin to many strong and resilient people, I am grateful for the life that has been gifted to me by Indigenous women.
As I learn more about who I am, I’ve attempted to be more responsible in my relationships with Indigenous women. However, when I think of my role as an Indigenous man in addressing violence against Indigenous women, I have, in the past, felt a tremendous sense of inadequacy knowing of the Indigenous women who are or have experienced abuse or worse yet, have gone missing or murdered.
Through ceremony, such as fasting and helping at a sweat lodges, I have learned that I can engage in meaningful work, towards addressing violence against Indigenous women and the land they are so intricately connected to, by healing myself so that I can be the best person I can be for myself, family and community.
Innovation to end Violence Against Indigenous Women
Re-establishing nation to nation relationships between Canada and Indigenous Nations has been stated as a shared objective, that Indigenous peoples from across Indian Country are rising to meet. Whether in rural or urban settings, at the core of Indigenous nation-building is the strengthening of the home fires of Indigenous Nations, the families who comprise our nations and whose center are the youth and children. A variety of initiatives, both grassroots and otherwise, are taking up the call to strengthen the home fires of Indigenous communities.
In British Columbia, Joyce and Joe Fossella, are co-executive directors of Warriors Against Violence, a men’s healing and prevention program founded on the belief that the best way to end family violence in Indigenous communities is to help men heal. Joyce and Joe, who once had an abusive relationship of their own, are an inspiration to other Indigenous families that healing can happen. For the past 12 years, the program has held healing circles twice a week for men, as well as sweats and co-ed circles. In the past year, the Warriors program saw over 400 clients. The program operates on limited funding with a part-time coordinator and four group facilitators who often volunteer their time to ensure the circle runs year-round. You can learn more about the program here.
Inspired by The Dudes Club, a proven model for Indigenous men’s wellness promotion that was established in Vancouver's East side in 2011, Frank Leaney and Grandmother Louella Tobias have started Kiyam, a weekly evening recovery group at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa.
Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin (I am Kind Man)is a program that was developed through the Ontario Friendship Movement that aims to create an opportunity for communities to engage Indigenous men and youth in understanding violence against Indigenous women and support them in joining together to end the violence. At a time when violence is a significant issue in many communities “I Am a Kind Man” reminds us that violence has never been an acceptable part of Aboriginal culture. Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin workers and facilitators embrace the Seven Grandfather Teachings (wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth) to work toward ending violence against Indigenous women.
Neechi Rides, a grassroots initiative based in Winnipeg, is led by Paul Flett. Longstanding allegations of misconduct on the part of Winnipeg taxi drivers towards Indigenous women inspired Paul to begin offering a no charge taxi service.
We hope to share a more comprehensive profile of each of these initiatives in future posts, stay tuned!
Innovative Ways Indigenous Youth Are Making Change
Across Turtle Island, Indigenous people from all nations, particularly youth, are finding innovative ways to end violence against Indigenous peoples. This post aims to share some of the strategies that are currently being used by Indigenous men, women and LGTBQQIP2SAA people to make ending violence a reality now!
For the past four years, Theland Kicknosway, a pipe carrier, drummer, dancer and emerging leader, from Walpole Island Bkejwanong Territory, who lives in Ottawa has run 130 km from Ottawa to Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in partnership with Families of Sisters in Spirit to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and to offer support to their families.
Cody Coyote is an Indigenous hip-hop artist, performer and facilitator from Matachewan First Nation whose healing journey is an inspiration for many. Cody uses his music to call Canada to be held accountable for the extreme poverty, intergenerational trauma, suicide rates, racism, missing and murdered people, and addiction. He is currently working to create a Bear Clan Patrol in Ottawa, a grassroots initiative originating in Manitoba’s North End that provides a community-based response for restoration and maintenance of harmony within the community served. Alongside Cody, other communities are starting their own Bear Clan Patrols as well, including Thunder Bay and Selkirk.
This past year, both the 4Rs Youth Movement and the Canadian Roots Exchange convened young leaders, from across Canada, through its Youth Reconciliation Initiative, to organize community events centering on reconciliation. For both groups, social media played an important role in raising community awareness about the work that was taking place. As our world becomes more connected through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, these platforms play an increasingly more important role in raising awareness and allowing individuals to connect with others who they would previously not have been able to. However, violence happens online, and social media corporations are not always equipped to combat the hate speech, harassment and other forms of abuse that takes place online.
Facebook recently hosted a conversation with young Indigenous leaders at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa, ON to discuss the ways in which social media can be used to connect and share stories of resilience, success and learning. Indigenous youth leaders also highlighted that these platforms are also being used to perpetuate violence, racism and negativity.