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More Indians Fed Up With White Men
August 2, 2009 permalink
Mothers on Ontario's Six Nations reserve have banded together to end the removal of their children to non-native families.
Six Nations clan mothers make 'history'
Posted By SUSAN GAMBLE Posted July 29, 2009
Six Nations clan mothers, fed up with reports of native children being removed from their extended families, have formed an advocacy group.
The clan mothers, traditionally a group that rarely meets or issues statements, have mobilized over this issue in a way that's a first for the community.
"This is history," spokesperson Gwen Styres said Tuesday. "This has never happened before."
Clan mothers are associated with the traditional matriarchal society that once characterized all of Six Nations. They rise up in families through bloodlines and being acknowledged by their relatives, but tend to keep their advice within their own families.
During the early stages of the land claim dispute in Caledonia, five or six clan mothers gathered to advise the protesters.
But, in this case, all the official clan mothers living on Six Nations -about 15 of them -have come together in agreement.
"A lot of our children are going to non-native homes," says one clan mother, a woman who asked that her name not be used out of respect to the clan system.
"They don't need to be in foster homes. They need to be in family homes."
According to Styres, who is considered a "runner" for the clan mothers, taking their message to the community and bringing feedback to them, the Six Nations branch of the Children's Aid Society is ignoring viable kinship homes where children would be welcome.
The clan mothers met with CAS officials in June, presenting a list of concerns and inviting CAS executive director Andrew Koster to set up a future meeting with the women to discuss child welfare.
On July 4, the women were issued a letter of support by the Confederacy Council.
While they don't recognize the elected band council, the clan mothers plan to meet with that group today to inform them of the situation.
Koster said that the CAS is taking seriously the views of the clan mothers and has already responded to them.
The clan mother and the two runners interviewed by The Expositor said they have received nothing addressed to them, and specifically nothing from Koster.
Last week, the clan mothers issued a statement saying all correspondence to them must come though Styres as a spokesperson and they will only deal with Koster in this matter.
"We want to protect the children and keep them within the community with family members," said the clan mother.
She likened the problem to the residential school situation where children lost their identities when they were plucked from the community to be kept in outside schools.
The clan mother also noted that due to a tremendous staff turnover at the Six Nations branch of the CAS, many of the workers, who were once mainly Six Nations members, are no longer there.
Koster said the branch office has a staff of 24 who serve reserve children and clients. Another 10 staff take care of off-reserve aboriginal clients in the city.
He said all the staff are from Six Nations or have aboriginal heritage, but the clan mother disagreed.
"Some of them just happen to have a status card but that doesn't make you a native person. Some of them are natives but from a different culture than us."
Koster said Brant CAS has been "an invited guest" on Six Nations since 1978 and doesn't want to interfere with issues that can be best resolved through dialogue between community members and various leadership groups.
That's why the CAS had native services branch manager Karen Hill respond to the group since she manages all the day-to-day operations in the department.
"Karen Hill and her staff at native services branch are completely open to further dialogue," said Koster
A second runner, who uses her native name of Kawennano:ron, said there are certain situations in which the clan mothers won't get involved. For example, the group won't be able to help if there are parents who are dealing with addictions or major problems that mean they need healing for themselves.
The group also wants to support native CAS workers.
"In writing, we've advised CAS we are willing to attend meetings regarding employee issues since the staff has no union and no one to represent them," said Kawennano:ron.
"Previous employees have been denied a support person."
How to contact
Six Nations clan mothers have set up an office for Haudenosaunne Child Services at 2144 Onondaga Rd. on Six Nations.
The group is inviting citizens to forward documents to it regarding children who have been taken into protective custody
The group can be contacted by mail at P. O. Box 436, Ohsweken, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 905-765-0350.
Source: Brantford Expositor