Cultural Core

When Weechi-it-te-win was conceived as an interim measure to non-native child welfare authorities, it was not envisioned as an enforcer of provincial laws; rather it was envisioned as a culturally competent resource which would, among many things, assist the communities it serves in revitalizing their customs  and traditional laws as these pertain to children and families.

In order to do this, Weechi-it-te-win had to first find its cultural voice and through this process establish a cultural core that is congruent with the natural or sacred laws of the Anishinaabe people. This did not happen overnight. It has been an evolving process – a process that in and of itself differentiates Weechi-it-te-win Family Services from all other Anishinaabe and mainstream child welfare agencies in the province of Ontario.

Weechi-it-te-win has found its cultural voice by seeking guidance from and giving thanks to the Creator, and through continuous and ongoing consultations with our Elders, and other spiritual advisors. These are not one-time activities and do not occur in intervals; rather, they are imbedded in practices, rituals and customs that are undertaken on a regular, and often day-to-day basis.

The Creator has given us maang, the loon, as our spiritual guardian which captures the essence of child care.  The loon is very protective of its young, is family oriented, and is accepting of young from other families or species.  The spots on maang represent the stars which is where maang was given the sacred responsibility for children. The loon family appears on all agency documents, serving as a constant reminder of the authority that has been invested in us by the people we serve and our responsibilities as protectors of children.

We invite Elders to participate in our meetings through the offering of tobacco, which is our custom and our practice. All of our meetings are opened with a prayer in our Anishinaabe language in which our hearts and minds are cleansed through smudging with sage. The burning of sage and the passing of Weechi-it-te-win’s sacred pipe around the circle opens our hearts to the diversities within our organization that reinforces our cultural core; thus, making us a stronger, more unified and effective resource. Those who do not understand the Ojibway language have the benefit of translation.

In times of crisis and discord, we consult with our Elders and medicine people through meetings and ceremony, and, when necessary, we go before the shaking tent. Sometimes the answers sought do not come easily to everyone. In these instances, individual staff members may choose a private and personal journey for enlightenment and self-discovery. WFS supports the journeys undertaken by staff members that will be of holistic benefit to them, and ultimately, to the children and families they work with. After all, an organization is only as healthy as its people.

We do not view the children and families we serve from the outside in, as people whose symptoms need fixing – an approach that is characteristic of the medical model approach to helping. Rather, we consider people from the inside out, recognizing that they have inherent strengths and goodness that equip them with the potential to live balanced, purposeful lives. This emphasis on strength instead of weaknesses, empowerment rather than disempowerment, and the belief that each individual has within him or herself the ability to heal and grow is another way which our approach to helping differs from practices in non-native child welfare agencies.

The traditional laws, customs and standards of its member communities obligate Weechi-it-te-win. This obligation extends from the sacred and tribal laws to which our people are accountable. WFS ensures that practice standards are harmonized with Ministry standards however, our practices are not motivated by standards prescribed by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

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