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Seniors Calling ~ The work of Ngookimisnaanuk Grandmothers continues

Seniors Calling ~ The work of  Ngookimisnaanuk Grandmothers continues

Anishinaabe worldview respects Nookimis ~ Grandmothers ~ as authorities

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~~   June 28, 2021  (LSN)  The Anishinaabe worldview respects Nookimis ~ Grandmothers ~ as authorities, educators and keepers of cultural and foundational laws. Grandmothers are sacred.

 The Ngookimisnaanuk Grandmothers are a Council of women elders, who came together over the issue of human trafficking of indigenous persons ~ most often girls and women ~ lured from spaces and places when they are most vulnerable and have all the hallmarks a trafficker is looking for. Being vulnerable above all.

Through the organization PACT Ottawa (Persons Against The Crime of Human Trafficking), ‘Project Northern Outreach’ supported a circle of Anishinaabe Grandmothers in 2015 to form an action alliance designed to understand the nature of human trafficking in their indigenous communities, and to prevent human trafficking through advocacy, education of cultural teachings and healing practices.

Project Northern Outreach convened 3 gatherings of 12 respected grandmothers from along the shores of L. Huron, including the areas of Sault St Marie, Thessalon, Manitoulin Island, and Serpent River. From those initial gatherings, Kii-ga-do-waak Nookimisuk Grandmothers Council, ‘The Kii-Ga-Do-Waak’ (Grandmother Council) was formed.

The Ngookimisnaanuk Grandmothers Council has participated in several memorial walks, including in 2016 when an International Bridge Walk took place in October. Approximately 60 people joined the Grandmothers to walk for social justice from Lake Superior State University grounds – Norris Centre (Sault, Michigan) to the Indian Friendship Centre in Sault, Ontario.

 The Grandmothers Gathering in October, 2017 was a collaborative effort with The Ontario Native Women’s Association, The Metis Nation of Ontario, Nimkii-Naabkawagan Family Crisis Shelter – Batchewana First Nation, the Indian Friendship Centre as well as Constable Troy Miller and members of The Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, who aided  a solidarity walk along the Canal District of Sault Ste Marie, along the downtown waterfront, to the Indian Friendship Centre at the close of the the three day gathering.

Renowned Indigenous activist Diane Redsky, Executive Director of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre Inc, Dr. Sheila Smith from The United Nations – Human Trafficking International portfolio, Shelley Knott and Kolym Greyum , ONWA – Thunder Bay (Ontario Native Women’s Association) were among the weekends guest speakers. Greyum  stressed, “It is key that when a victim is identified, all barriers are removed to ensure they are survivors.”

Today, Kii-Ga-Do-Waak Ngookimisnaanuk Grandmothers Council is a not-for-profit organization. A goal for the Grandmothers Council is to build a traditional healing retreat/lodge on 250 beautiful acres north of Iron Bridge near Bellingham, Ontario.  A place where victims fleeing violence and trafficking can find refuge.

The following video is from an interview in February, 2021 at The Quattro Conference Centre in Sault Ste Marie with Nookomis Isabelle Meawasige, Marly Day, Alison Recollet who were together in The Sault for a planning session.

As we begin to climb out of a pandemic that shook the world, indeed continues to do so, and we begin to gingerly move around our communities, regions, country, it bears reminding that we citizens may cross paths with a human trafficker or human trafficking victim. As we travel highways and by-ways, we would do well to educate ourselves about signs of human trafficking. About trusting our gut.

Highways are corridors. Indigenous communities intersect those corridors and have been targets of human traffickers, looking to groom and draw away a vulnerable young person. The Highway 11-17 corridor is a route for human traffickers.

A contemporary form of slavery, human trafficking refers to the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over a person to exploit them, usually sexually, or through forced labour.

In late July, 2021, Ngookimisnaanuk Grandmothers Council are holding a 4 day Ceremony in a location yet-to-be determined in the Sault Ste Marie area. Nookimis Marly Day told me that homelessness, especially among youth and violence and human trafficking are intersecting right here in this region. At the present time, the goal is to "bring the traditional Tee Pee to an area where we can light a sacred fire ~ a fire that will be burning for 4 days, with a traditional firekeeper. The men will be there all night for the sacred fire."

Day said, "Ideally, we would hold the ceremony at the Canal district - on the grounds there ~ lots of room for people to come down - and a community bus could be made available to bring people down to the grounds. Whitefish Island is there. The Canal grounds are on the traditional lands of Batchewana First Nation."

 The Grandmothers Council will be there and present for people to come and share together ~ to talk about issues that are ever present in downtowns and cities across the country. There isn't a community  immune from the absolute sadness of addictions - of youth homelessness - of violence - of exploitation of humans. It's tough out there on the streets - and you don't have to live on the streets to know that.

Grandmother Day told me that the grandmothers  "just have to do something. It's bad out there ~ it's scary out there and it's not getting any better." Nookimis Day said they are open to people coming to the area. "To share in connecting - with talking - with taking a break . To come with their lived experience and just be present for that. For allies to come and reach out - to support the effort."

Day stated that there may be people who want to support the Ceremony.  She said that if people want to make any donations to supplement homelessness, Drop-Off Boxes/Bins will be set up in marked areas where social distancing can support drop-off's of items. "Items like socks, small size toiletries, sanitary napkins ~ anything that would help support a human living out of a packsack. In fact, pack sacks filled would be a great thing. Empty packsacks are always needed. On the streets, you are living out of a packsack essentially."

Nookimis Day said that it is early in the planning process. "We Grandmothers are being called to do this. Our Spirits are broken - our youth are suffering - We may not have all the answers, but who does? We just have to do this, and it will be what it will be. As long as people are respectful of our traditional ways, and are coming to the gathering and ceremony with openness."

Day further said that firewood and tobacco are needed. Anyone wishing to contact the Grandmothers Council can do so through this number: (705) 542-1941. Messages can be sent via their private Facebook page. or herehttp://kiigadowaak.com/

As the planning process moves along, i will update this story with a link for any financial donations people may want to offer.
Kimberly Pelletier is the Treasurer of the Board for the Grandmothers  Council and can be reached at  [email protected].

The Grandmothers Gathering and Ceremony will coincide with World Day against Trafficking in Persons, held at the end of July each year. People trafficking and modern day slavery is a massive worldwide problem. The event  is led by the United Nations .

In Canada, we further mark a date nationally, provincially and territorial in February. On February 22, 2007, the Canadian House of Commons passed a motion condemning the trafficking of women and children across international borders for the purposes of sexual exploitation, officially adopting February 22 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada.

In 2012, the federal government unveiled the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking to address the issue. In 2019, the National Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking 2019-2024 further built on the mission to combat this heinous crime.

Human Trafficking falls under the purview of Public Safety Canada. Ontario accounts for more than two-thirds of human trafficking cases nationally.

Ontario accounts for more than two-thirds of human trafficking cases nationally. The majority of survivors are Canadian citizens or permanent residents, while Indigenous women and girls are among the most targeted and over-represented groups of trafficked individuals.

The OPP Anti-Human Trafficking (AHT) Investigation Coordination Unit has hired a researcher to examine human trafficking in northern Ontario, with a specific focus on Indigenous persons.

Funded by the Solicitor General for Ontario, the OPP announced on Feb.10, 2021 that the organization has hired Dr. Olsen Harper, a member of the Lac Seul First Nation, to identify the reality of human trafficking in northwest Ontario and its impact on Indigenous individuals and communities.

The video below shares an overview of how the Grandmothers Council was founded.

 

#LSN_TBay #LSN_FirstNation

 

Seniors Calling: Appearing Mondays


Lynne Brown 
Lynne Brown

Algoma writer and reporter. Has written for special editions Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal ~ freelance contributor to Anishinabek News, Lake Superior News. Former Content Director Superior Media. Lynne developed 'Seniors Calling' as a regular feature for various publications. In the 80’s, Lynne worked for AutoTrader Magazine in rural Southwestern Ont. Trudging through a farmers’ field for a picture of a 56 Dodge Custom Royal was considered a very good day.

Lynne is mom to Kyle and Benjamin and a former resident of rural Thunder Bay. 

Special interests include issues relating to rural life, seniors, travel, history, community development and indigenous peoples. @dlynnebrown on twitter 

Disclaimer
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Lake Superior News / Lake Superior Media.

Categories: Northern Ontario
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