Margaret Poitras, CEO of the All Nations Hope Network
The All Nations Hope Network is looking to the past as a way to build a stronger community.
Margaret Poitras, CEO of ANHN, said the time has come to return to the old teachings as a way to tackle many of the social issues impacting indigenous people.
Last month, ANHN hosted its first Rites of Passage Teachings, which traditionally, were done as a young girl entered puberty.
“All Nations Hope has been moving forward in bringing back and restoring back teachings and the responsibilities of indigenous women,” said Poitras. “There is a group of women here in the community, their daughters and their children who have been attending a series of teachings in the spring here (because) the rites of passage ceremony can only take place in the spring.”
This week, is the final meeting and ceremony for the current group but it won’t be the last ever. The plan is to make it an annual event.
“All Nations Hope sees this as a way forward in dealing with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other blood-born infections that are impacting indigenous communities at the greatest, so this is a solution that we see,” she said. “It is coming from the Saskatchewan Indigenous Strategy on HIV and AIDS that was implemented in 2014 in Saskatchewan. This is a way All Nations Hope sees as a way of dealing with the health and social conditions that are impacting indigenous people.”
Poitras believes reviving cultural practices and working with young mothers and children will positively impact the future.
“It is solution based,” she said. “It is very beautiful to bring back the ceremonies that have been, I would say, forgotten, because no one can steal our ceremonies or take them away from us, we just have to renew them and remember who we are as indigenous people.”
The teachings included information on traditional birthing, traditional childbirth practices, childrearing and woman life ways.
Poitras said the support from the community has been great and because it was the first time, it has been a learning experience but exciting nonetheless.
“In the years to come we want to see hundreds of young girls going through this ceremony,” she said. “How many generations have we not been participating in these teachings and these ceremonies? It is time now, as we move forward with the restoration of women’s roles and responsibilities. It is our responsibility as women to bring our young girls into womanhood in a good way and continue to support them through their journey.”
On a personal level, she and her daughter have attended the teachings because they are also new to her.
“We’re going together and we’re going to go through this ceremony for a year, this rites of passage, because I have never experienced it and she has never experienced it either,” said Poitras,”I have a granddaughter who is four-years old and so we will be ready for her when she comes to that time.”
Seeing real things happening in the community gives her hope that things will begin to turn around for indigenous people and believes this is how the battle against HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C will be won.