Youth panel with AIAI Grand Chief Gord Peters.

Youth panel with AIAI Grand Chief Gord Peters.

Conference explores traditional paths to community wellness

LONDON – First Nation leaders and frontline workers from across Ontario gathered at the Oneida Nation of the Thames Community Centre this week to explore paths to community wellness in response to staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women.

“This event was really about finding ways to end violence in our families,” said Grand Chief Gordon Peters.

“Our families have work to do to decolonize and restore healthy relationships with each other that are grounded in our traditions.”

“We need to support both men and women to heal and support each other,” added Peters.

The two-day conference included presentations on the traditional roles of men and women, impacts of western culture and colonization, barriers caused by trauma, and a youth panel exploring the current realities faced by First Nations youth.

“I think the most important thing for our youth to do is get involved in our communities, finding that sense of self, and learning our traditions,” said Melanie Gray, a 22-year-old youth panelist from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. “Learning our traditions will create a ripple effect to wellness in our communities.”

A joint initiative between the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) and At^lohsa Native Family Healing services, organizers hope that the event will support First Nation leaders to find ways to end family violence in their communities.

“The youth need to have more opportunities to speak at these kinds of events,” added Gray. “These are our issues, and we are going to be responsible for leading our communities one day.”