Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre

Education, Awareness, and Well Being

The Education, Awareness and Wellbeing Sector offers participants the opportunity to revisit and build on their Aboriginal and academic interests. Our flagship program, Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) is funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development and is primarily for learners who wish to prepare for adult secondary school credits, post-secondary programs, training in apprenticeships, and/or employment programs.

In addition to being directly supported by our funder, we are also supported through affiliations with the Metropolitan Toronto Movement for Literacy (MTML) and the Ontario Native Literacy Coalition (ONLC); organizations which provide opportunities for networking and lobbying for LBS related services, operational support, and staff training.

The Education Sector also relies on student placements to ensure that our learners receive one-on-one support when needed. Over the past few years we have fostered academic relationships with the University of Toronto (U of T), Ryerson University, York University, George Brown College and Seneca College.

Our LBS Program is a self-directed, self-managed program which assists learners who want to upgrade their core reading, writing, math and basic computer skills. We offer classes in History, Communications, and Contemporary Topics and Art Response. Additionally, we offer drop-in and one-on-one tutorial sessions to students who require a more personalized help. To accommodate learners and their personal schedules, our registration intake is conducted on an ongoing basis.

Classes are small, personalized and delivered within an Aboriginal cultural context. This gives learners a sense of community and day-to-day support beyond their academic involvement. We are routinely called upon to be responsive to the individualized life needs of our learners in an effort to assist them with achieving daily successes. The Sector’s intent is not only to fortify our learners through academics, but also to encourage them to discover and build on their personal strengths, in a nourishing environment that upholds holistic Indigenous teachings and traditions. Included in this intent is the idea of creating positive classroom learning environments that encourage our learners to be expressive of their learning experiences.

We acknowledge that our learners have knowledge and understanding to share and we encourage them to participate in sharing circles and one-on-one information sessions that provide valuable feedback to fellow learners, our program facilitators, and our Ministry funder.

We help our Learners access services both within and outside of Toronto Council Fire and we provide ongoing support to those moving to next level of their life.

Year in Review

Through outreach to other organizations, the Education Sector has participated in a variety of networking events. These events ranged from workshops and symposiums concerning the development of Indigenous-based school curriculum, to assisting the LBS Program staff at the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre in Windsor, Ontario, to disseminating Aboriginal cultural teachings to organizations outside of the Aboriginal community.

The Education Sector staff have facilitated workshops and presentations to the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. These presentations were received by CAS/CCAS staff, child care workers, parents, and foster parents. Other activities included involvement with the Restorative Relations Working Group, facilitating professional development workshops at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology – in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and supporting the Resolution Health team by providing feedback and debriefing consultation to the staff and peer support workers involved with a U of T course called “Sociology of Truth and Reconciliation”.

The Education Sector also participated in the Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy’s “Learning Disabilities Workshop” where LBS staff and students were able to provide input into how various challenges, some not commonly perceived as learning disabilities, affect learning at all levels.

During the past year, we also supported other Toronto Council Fire programs and initiatives. These included supporting the Indian Residential School Survivors (IRSS) Legacy project and co-hosting in-house Aboriginal cultural events such as weekly “Creation and Clan Story” workshops.

Additionally, both our learners and staff participated in local community projects such as pow-wows, the Toronto Street Needs Assessment project (regarding homeless people), and a City of Toronto workshop on “Emergency Preparedness and Response.”

Lastly, the Education Sector staff participated in a Tribute Concert Fundraiser which was organized by the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism, for the benefit of Toronto Council Fire.

Resolution Health / Cultural Support & IRSS

Naandwidizwin – Wechihitita (Healing Ourselves – Helping Each Other)

The Naandwedizwin-We-chi-hi-tita “Healing Ourselves – Helping Each Other” project facilitates the immediate, ongoing and long-term healing process for Residential School Survivors and their families residing in Toronto. Services include but are not limited to: one-on-one counseling; preparation and follow up support for claim hearings; emotional support at Indian Residential School Survivor (IRSS) circles; workshops to raise awareness & healing modalities dealing with the impact of residential schools; community workshops on grief and loss, parenting, cultural awareness.

Weekly Programming consists of:

Motivational Mondays: We explore the city on local outings to engage in physical activity. Some events that have taken place include walking the boardwalk at Cherry Beach, going to see the cherry blossoms at High Park, and nature walks through various parks and areas of Toronto.

Healing Circle: On Tuesday afternoons the Peer Support team provides a lunch at noon for the group. After lunch, a three-hour private co-ed healing circle for Indian Residential School Survivors & intergenerational survivors is held. Traditional healing circle and eagle feather protocols are followed and shared with newcomers. A healing component has been added to accommodate open discussion on the topic of healing.

Traditional Arts and Craft Circle: The craft circle is held on Wednesday and Thursday and consists of projects the clients can work on a continual basis. We have beading and dream catcher supplies, moccasin making kits, leather and craft supplies that have been donated for clients to share. There are sewing machines available for clients to make traditional skirts, pouches and shawls. All participants are encouraged to make an item for fundraising in exchange for use of supplies.

Tea Time: The craft circle has an added component on Thursday afternoons. Tea time begins with the protocol of smudge and the eagle feather going around while others continue crafting. This group consists mostly of women and has given ladies an opportunity to talk amongst other Survivor peers.

Special Events and Highlights

Council Fire’s First Annual Youth Pow Wow

Several Survivors who participate in programming at Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre began the journey of making their regalia, many of them for the first time. It took an immense amount of courage

Several Survivors who participate in programming at Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre began the journey of making their regalia, many of them for the first time. It took an immense amount of courage for the Survivors to take part in this programming. Many of them had never worn regalia due to the effects of residential school. It took a number of months to complete ribbon skirts, ribbon shirts, moccasins, shawls, applique work, and more. When the time came for the beautiful courageous group to dance out in the pow-wow arena for the first time it was an emotional time for everyone involved. The entire Council Fire community, family, and friends were there to help support the group and show their love and respect for one another. This is one of the many activities that have encouraged, supported, and empowered Survivors to reclaim their identity.

Oneida-Council Fire Partnership

Throughout the 2017-18 Fiscal Year our group created a partnership with the Oneida Nation of the Thames. The Survivors group of Council Fire worked with the Clan Mothers and their families in the Oneida community. We came together through the art of crafting including, sewing, quilting, and ribbon skirt making. While working together we were able to share languages with each other and empower each other through sharing skills, teachings and stories.

Partnerships with Colleges and Universities

We shared and celebrated Orange Shirt Day by attending a special event at George Brown College where we attended and facilitated a talking circle with students. There was a social honoring the Residential School Survivors afterwards.

Council Fire began a new partnership with the University of Toronto. Ten Survivors co-facilitated as knowledge keepers during the fall semester for a course called The Sociology of Truth and Reconciliation. The Survivors who participated shared their stories with the students and in turn, the students developed their own personal strategies and calls to action on how they can as individuals work towards reconciliation.

We facilitated many different types of ceremonies for the Survivor community at Council Fire throughout the year including sweat lodge, pipe ceremony, feasting our ancestors, full moon ceremony, and pow wows. We look forward to continuing to provide an opportunity for our community members to participate in ceremony and to continue to reclaim their identity.