Thursday, 24 July 2014

Government Funded Domestic Violence Shelter Requires Six Nations Christians to Participate in "Traditional" Practices or They are Forced Out

In what must be one of the most coercive, inhumane as well as discriminatory policies by any organization, "Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services" will toss clients out if they do not comply with "traditional programming".

An article entitled, Ganohkwasra facing funding shortages, high staff turnover, in "Turtle Island News" (p.3) describes profoundly disturbing practices at a Six Nations center which is supposed to assist families in crisis.  Families who have experienced domestic violence have only a limited number of places to turn to for counselling and support.  Someone blew the whistle on this group to their Elected Band Councillor.  The article reports that, Coun. Roger Jonathan said he was "really mad" when a former client of Ganohkwasra told him the staff said she had to participate in traditional programming or otherwise, be discharged from the shelter.

He said the woman, a Christian, wanted no part of that.

"I believe the majority of our people are not following traditional ways," said Jonathan.  "This is supposed to be a facility of healing.  When people are in a crisis, you don't want to push anything on them."

The Director of Ganohkwasra, said clients are required to partake in programming, which contains elements of traditional teachings, in order to stay at the shelter but she said they are not forced to participate in ceremonies.

"(We're) not telling anybody to go to longhouse," said the Director"It's about how we can have a good mind.  I know our clientele.  I know a lot of times people come in to our shelter and don't want to participate in programming.  They're not helping themselves get better.  One of our requirements for them to be in the shelter is that they participate in programming and they're told that right at the start, and that they follow the curfew, and that keeps everyone safe.  They might not be raised traditionally, but they're searching for their identity, for something.  They're lost, in crisis.  It's not just a place to stay.  There's a lot of good teachings there."  These statements appear to be highly judgmental.

So as I read this, you have people who are in a genuine crisis due to domestic violence, and at that weak point in their lives they are given indoctrination sessions, with teachings that are unwelcomed but rammed down their throats - like it or not - because of what can only be described as a sanctimonious self - righteous philosophy, "Momma knows best" and these clients are wayward sheep who need to be led back to the traditional fold.  If they do not conform, no matter what their psychological state or the circumstances of their abuse, they are turfed out if they do not participate in longhouse teachings - which would be offensive to many Christians.  This seems positively cruel and unjust, and risks doing further damage to already fragile individuals.

If this was a privately funded group, perhaps in some way (that I cannot fathom), an anti - Christian policy could be justified.  Considering that the majority of people at Six Nations are Christian or nominal Christians, the agency is then saying to them, in a sense, "convert or get out" - at least during the time of their stay.  Clearly the needs of Christian Six Nations, the majority on the Reserve, and others who do not follow the "traditional" ways are being devalued - unless they conform to the longhouse teachings.  Mohawks whose descendants came to the Grand River have been Christian, Protestant, since the mid to late 1600s when the Dutch Reformed ministers of the New Netherlands Colony began their ministry to this group.  This includes my own ancestors.  By the early 1700s virtually all Mohawk from both the Upper and Lower Villages and the Schoharie settlements were Christian, meaning that their children were baptized and the adults attended communion.  See Barbara J. Sivertsen, Turtles, Wolves, and Bears: A Mohawk Family History, Bowie MD, Heritage Books, Inc., 1996.

However this group, presently lobbying for more money, receives about $2 million year in funding but are seeking an extra $444,000 from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).  So taxpayer dollars are going to fund an indoctrination center that discriminates against certain groups on the basis of religion.  As far as I know that is illegal (although this needs to be verified) and they are ineligible for funding. 

One can also see this as but yet another example of the attempt of traditionalists (HCCC / HDI) to seek uniformity at Six Nations with all reverting back to the "one path" towards finding their true identity, and a "good mind" (a commonly used catch phrase at Six Nations these days).  That is extraordinarily insulting, and one can only hope it will backfire.  It sounds more like a cult than a healing center.

Excluding people in crisis from a government funded agency because they do not engage in traditional practices (including Longhouse rituals), and will not do so during the course of counselling, is unacceptable.


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