Cleq’melt: Groups for Aboriginal children and youth in Schools and Community

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Cleq’melt: Groups for Aboriginal children and youth in Schools and Community

$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

This journey started with a circle, a small group of champions who were brought together at the right time and place, united by a desire to return tradition and culture to the classrooms for our Aboriginal students. The groups, and my work with girls is rooted in my over 15 years of front-line work with Aboriginal girls as an ally; auntie, sister and group facilitator, and finally my own journey of identity. In my 17 years in Vancouver, I created and facilitated girls groups for girls who had experienced trauma; many of these girls were urban Aboriginal and from communities across British Columbia and Canada. When I returned to the Interior of BC; I had a kitchen table conversation with my mother-in-law Donna Jules, a Secwepmec woman and a strong role model in the community. We were discussing Aboriginal girls, in particular the young women including her daughter, my sister; who are strong, resilient young women in spite of the violence, abuse and ongoing colonial legacy around them. Together we questioned what made the difference in the girls who managed to navigate adolescence and those who struggled. We both identified that in the girls we knew the key role in their health was their connection to culture, language and identity, and strong female role models including Elders. I had been reading about Rites of Passage groups in the United States with African American girls and how these groups had resulted in girls staying in school and decreased harm and risk taking. At the same time I was invited by Susan Dixon to meet with Deb Draney and others who wanted to start girls groups in the community. Together with Felix Delorme, who had been involved in Rites of Passage work through the Interior Indian Friendship Society, Deb Draney and Renee Spence from the School District Aboriginal programs and First Nations Education Council, and Susan Dixon then Stay in School Coordinator with the School District, we wrote a proposal to McCreary Foundation to fund Rites of Passage groups for boys and girls in the community. We developed the model in circle with the community, including Elders, youth, educators, parents and service providers. We now have a Grandmother's council that guides us in this work and we provide over 18 groups in primary and secondary schools in the region, serving over 150 Aboriginal girls and boys. We followed this up with a successful application to Canadian Women’s Foundation in partnership with Interior Indian Friendship Society & School District for Rites of Passage groups. This funding allowed us to expand our focus on primary Rites of Passage groups for girls in schools. The Rites of Passage model was built by listening to the community and working towards what they want. The community wants us to use a traditional family approach. This means we want to continue to weave into our program as many Elders, aunties, families and university women as we can so that we can connect girls to as many different ages and stages of womanhood as we can. In addition the essential elements of the groups include indigenous worldview through the medicine wheel and seven sacred teachings; a focus on strengths and healthy resistance; trauma-informed and cultural safety that recognizing the diversity within and between Indigenous girls and their identities. The groups take into account the development needs of Aboriginal girls at a critical stage in their gender identity formation and cultural identity. The Rites of Passage girls groups build relationships between girls and adult females including female Elders, in order to nurture and reinforce femaleness as a positive identity with inherent strengths to support healthy self-expression.

About You
About You
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About You, Your Group, or Your Organization

Interior Indian Friendship Society, School District 73 Aboriginal Programs and Thompson Rivers University


, BC

Please confirm that this project could benefit First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples


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What categories best describe who your group or organization serves (check all that apply)

First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

What best describes your group or organization

Community group or youth group, Non-profit organization.

How long have you, your group, or your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Define your idea / project in 1-2 short sentences

Cleq’melt means to advise, and involves the teaching of daily practical cultural activities through weekly Aboriginal boys and girls groups in the schools.

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Expanding (it has been running for a while, has grown, you know it is making a difference and now you want to expand)

Social Impact
Please tell us about the social impact of your idea or proect

We know we are engaged in effective work by the testimonials we receive from the girls and parents and by the reaction of our community. For instance, the results from the CWF evaluation indicated that 90% of the girls interviewed felt totally or somewhat better, and 90% of the girls felt they had totally or somewhat improved critical thinking skills while 70% felt they had a totally or somewhat better sense of belonging. Five years ago we offered one group in one school and one in the community. Today we have 19 groups in 18 schools that are running this year and more people are asking. Evaluation of these girls groups now running in their fifth year have indicated increased healthy relationships for the girls at all levels and increased school attendance and healthy coping.

Your Future Goal(s): Tell us what you hope to achieve with your idea or project in the next year

We would like to expand the boys programs, as we received funding for the girls programs, but not for boys groups.

In 5 years, what will be different as a result of your idea/project?

Healthy communities, healthy families, and healthy children and youth who are culturally proud, educated and who live healthy relationships, including relationships for two-spirit youth. Through linking cultural teachings with school based curriculum, and strategies for addressing systemic racism and providing practical strategies for dealing with every-day racism; together with supporting the development of strong cultural values and beliefs, and healthy resistance and activism.

Tell us about the people/ partnerships that are already involved and why they are important to your idea or project.

This journey started with a circle, a small group of champions, together with youth and Elders who were brought together at the right time and place, united by a desire to return tradition and culture to the classrooms for our Aboriginal students. Our group is guided by a Grandmothers' Council of Elders. Partnerships include the Kamloops Indian Friendship Centre, Christopher Phillips, Executive Director;
School of Social Work and Human Service at Thompson Rivers University Natalie Clark Trainer and Facilitator;School District 73, Deb Draney, Principal of Aboriginal Education; First Nations Education Council, Dr. Renee Spence and Girls Group Co-coordinator, Susan Dixon, retired SD 73 Stay in School Coordinator.

If there are other people/partners that you will reach out to tell us who they are and why they will be important to your idea or project.

We would like to expand our groups to include boys groups for younger boys in elementary school, and older boys in secondary schools. In order to achieve this goal we would like to establish a grandfather's council and bring together Aboriginal male facilitators. We would like to bring together the girls and boys groups, with the Elders in a culture camp and would expand our partnership with local First Nations bands.

Describe the kinds of support you receive (other than money) or will need to support your idea or project (e.g.: donated, space, equipment and volunteers)

We do not have funding for boys groups, but do receive funding from the Canadian Women's Foundation for the girls groups. In kind is offered through the First Nations Education council First Nations counsellors, and through the time of everyone involved in this project.

Do you currently have funding for your idea or project?

Yes (answer the next two questions)