"It Takes a Village"...and a whole lot of grassroots organizing
We’ve spent some time this week discussing Call to Action #5 and its profound effect on individuals and communities, both when culturally appropriate parenting programs are available and accessible, and sadly when they are not.
Today on the blog we sit down with the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre (GPFC), a leader in Indigenous-based, community-engaged grassroots programming to discuss the intergenerational, intersectional impact of raising our children in community.
GPFC Executive Director Miranda Laroche shared that for her, “TRC Call to Action #5 is important as it ensures traditional ways of our Ancestors are re-introduced and practiced in today’s modern family systems. As a result of colonialism and years of assimilation and oppression, our people have lost knowledge, teachings, spirituality, identity, sense of community and so much more. Traditional Parenting ways were gentle and nurturing and involved the child in the centre of the community. We focus on providing education and experiences for families and provide mentoring, person-centered supports, and role modeling….to remind them of the things they have forgotten or lost because of the Government’s attempts of genocide. It is up to us to end the cycles that started through colonialism.”
These cycles of historical injustices and intergenerational trauma are at the root of Laroche’s passion and the centre’s focus. As an Indigenous woman, Laroche sees how bringing in Elders and Knowledge Keepers to tie in traditional parenting practices to the world parents are now immersed in has tangible effects on the lives of those in her community. Through hands-on learning experiences that incorporate traditional food, Cree language lessons, traditional dance, Ceremony and prayer, and Elder storytelling – both children and caregivers are offered the opportunity through GPFC to reclaim, revitalize, and decolonize child-raising.
This intergenerational approach that brings together entire kinship systems to learn from and grow with one another in Indigenous ways of knowing speaks to the true meaning of the well-known phrase ‘it takes a village.’ As Laroche shares, “family means many things to different people.” By engaging with traditional kinship systems that expand beyond a child’s nuclear family, GPFC can provide a holistic approach to family well-being.
A special moment for families is the creation of Regalia that happens at the end of the Aboriginal Headstart school year. Families are invited to join in on classes to learn how to sew their child’s regalia, as well as take part in teachings and conversations. In this time Elders in the community are invited to be with the families as they learn ceremony, language, and hear stories. It is in these moments that Indigenous resurgence and revitalization are felt. Reminders of the work that Indigenous families are doing to heal and find their way back to community and traditions, in a society that so often creates barriers.
Barriers that are felt even within these remarkable programs at GPFC. Funding, as Ms. Laroche explains, is never sufficient to offer proper programming in the way the community needs. Once children have graduated from preschool, there are no programs available for children and families to continue to learn and grow in a culturally appropriate way. As a result, connections and learning cultivated in their early years are often lost as they enter the school system.
Yet the programs continue and this grassroots community organization, like many others, finds success in their sheer determination to see their communities rise. For as Laroche shares, “we cannot wait on the Government to create the change. We need to create it ourselves.”
And they do. One parent at a time. One child at a time. One program at a time.
The work of grassroots organizations never ends, but we are hopeful dear readers that one day with the support of the Calls to Action it won’t be so hard.
Until next time,