Programs support Indigenous women and families

TEMISKAMING SHORES - The Keepers of the Circle, based in New Liskeard, is working to provide numerous supports to Indigenous women and their families.

Its services include mentoring, Early ON programs, support, advice, and opportunities to make connections and access resources.

Numerous activities and workshops include cultural crafts, prenatal workshops, nutrition programs, Medicine Wheel teachings, Seven Grandfather teachings, and family-based activities and support.

Opportunities are also made available to pursue a number of technical and certificate training programs. Tours of potential employment sites, and guest speakers are also organized.

Keepers of the Circle also works closely with the Indigenous health team Mino M'shki-ki based at the Temiskaming Hospital.

Karly Chevrier-Wabie is an Indigenous family mentor and has the job of providing the Early ON programming and the Canada Pre-Natal Nutrition Program, as well as being trained in infant massage, which she can teach to parents.

Darlene Skani's role as an Indigenous family support worker includes assisting Indigenous women and their families with needs such as filling out paperwork, food support and getting to the food banks to acquire what is needed, court visits if needed, and advocacy on legal issues.

They are part of a large team of workers who are present at the centre to support clients.

The team also works with Advocacy North which offers free legal advice for low income elders and seniors on issues such as housing and long-term care, problems with community services and healthcare, power of attorney, and abuse.

Chevrier-Wabie said efforts are made to base activities "on what the family's and the children's interests are, we always ask them ‘what are your interests, and what kind of activities you want to see in the future.’"

Skani commented of the clientele, "It's mostly women, but we do support men. We do have Indigenous men reaching out to our supports."

By working alongside Mino M'shki-ki, Keepers of the Circle also offers specialized programming to support mothers and fathers who are dealing with substance abuse, Chevrier-Wabie noted.

Skani added, "Mino M'shki-ki have a wide range of services as well."

There is also a men's sharing circle there, as well as addictions and mental health services. There is also a psychotherapist available.

"They have a really good team up there," said Skani.

Mino M'shki-ki also provides pre-natal supports, noted Chevrier-Wabie.

Mino M'shki-ki was founded by the late Anne Batisse, who also founded Keepers of the Circle in New Liskeard, said Skani.

Keepers is led by six or seven elders who meet monthly to make decisions about proposals and problems.

While the centre is an active hub with daycare services and numerous activities for those seeking health, cultural and other support, Chevrier-Wabie says there is a great need to reach those who have barriers.

There is a need "to get outreach to our Indigenous clients. It's really hard for them. There's not a lot of support for them. We know how to support them but it's to get to them so they know what's out there and they're not alone."

Skani noted she enjoys doing advocacy work, and both she and Chevrier-Wabie can also see the need for a similar service for non-Indigenous people.

For more information about programs and activities taking place at Keepers of the Circle in New Liskeard go to www.keepersofthecircle.com or to Facebook Keepers of the Circle New Liskeard Indigenous Focused Activities and Events.

To contact Chevrier-Wabie phone 705-647-7874 ext. 4160 or email

k.chevrierwabie@keepersofthecircle.com.

To contact Skani phone 705-647-7874 ext. 490 or email d.skani@keepersofthecircle.com.

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker