History and development of WFS

Historical Timeline

Mid 1970’s:  there was political pressure all across Ontario, Canada, and the United States due to the high number of children being removed from their families and the devastation resulting from government policy.

In the 1970’s, almost 50% of children from Big Grassy First Nation were being taken and placed outside the community.  This was based on the CAS mindset that families were incapable.  Mainstream measuring sticks, models/practices were being applied to anishinaabe families.

1981: resolution Chiefs of Ontario: “Be it further resolved that we, the Indian Nations of Ontario shall create our own Indian child welfare laws, policies and programs based on the protection of our children and the preservation of their Indian culture within the Indian family.

When we teach about the history of  Weechi-it-te-win, we must view this history from both worldviews due to the sacred teachings and sacred ways that were instrumental to the development of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services.

WFS Administrative Development

Rainy Lake Tribal Chiefs March 1982:  ‘Be it resolved that the RLTC Inc. intends to take necessary measures to ensure that our children and families are protected and that we are hereby serving notice by this resolution that we are commencing the process to create an Indian Child Welfare legislation alternatives.”

As a result Weechi-it-te-win received its mandate and was later incorporated in 1983.

January 1983:  The establishment of Native Child Welfare Planning Committee:

  • Rosemarie Tuesday
  • Dennis McPherson
  • Elaine Big George (Jourdain)
  • Steve Johnson
  • Leslie Perrault
  • Rupert Hunter
  • David Spencer
  • Kathy Kelly  (Kishequeb)

The Native Child Welfare Planning Committee developed the “Vision” of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services.

  • To stop Children’s Aid Societies from removing our children and placing them outside our communities
  • To stop Children’s Aid Societies from placing our children in non-native homes across Canada and the U.S.
  • To preserve Anishinaabe Culture and Identity among the people
  • To Strengthen and maintain Anishinaabe families and communities
  • To assure the growth, support and developments of children within Anishinaabe families and communities

1984:  The review of the Ontario Child and Family Services Act resulted in Part X - Customary Care, a specific section for Native children.

In 1986, George Simard MSW was sought out and recruited as Executive Director to move Weechi-it-te-win toward the vision as set out by the planning committee.  In 1986, Weechi-it-te-win received agency status.  The chiefs did not take this decision lightly, they did not want Weechi-it-te-win to continue the practice of the local CAS.

1987: Agency Designation.  Weechi-it-te-win followed Tikinaagin Child and Family Services and was the 2nd Native operated designated agency in Ontario.  Designated was always viewed as a temporary measure to “our Anishinaabe alternative.”

1987 – 1998 – Development of Customary Care Models, Bi-Cultural Practice Models, and Anishinaabe Rights of the Child.

1999 – Chiefs provide resolution to move forward with Devolution of Services

2000-2003 - Preparation, planning, and devolution of child welfare services is attained through services agreements with each of the 10 First Nations.

2003 – Each of the 10 First Nations have an active Community Care Program made up of child in care worker, supervisor, family services worker and family counsellor

2006-08 – Naaniigaan Abinoojii – Our Central Purpose is implemented.  This was a response to Bill 210 that initiated changes to the child welfare system in which the focus was on permanency for the child.  Weechi-it-te-win responded by harmonizing these regulations from an “Anishinaabe permanency” perspective. Naaniigaan Abinoojii was a response to further legislation in Ontario that pushed for permanency for children in the system and stronger guidelines for foster care.

November 2013:  Transfer of Jurisdiction Agreement between Weechi-it-te-win and Kenora Rainy River Child and Family Services.  This allowed for members living outside of the 10 First Nations but within the Kenora/Rainy River District to receive services from Weechi-it-te-win and the Community Care Programs.  Previous to this agreement, all members living outside of the First Nation were required to receive supportive and intervention services through the Rainy River District Children's Aid Society

March 2014:  Devolution continues and the Family Preservation Program is devolved to the 10 First Nations promoting an array of services to be delivered at the community by the community care programs.

WFS Cultural Development

1982-1998:  Weechi-it-te-win receives name from atisookaaanang and emblem of the loon.  The Loon provided various instructions on how the organization must operation and perform. 

Weechi-it-te-win is bestowed several pipes during this time, to be used during various times and circumstances that Weechi-it-te-win may encounter.  Weechi-it-te-win implements a Council of Elders for guidance in its operations and development.

1994:  Weechi-it-te-win’s Training and Learning Centre for Youth is given a sweatlodge and a Thunderbird Tree.  This is to follow this program wherever it may go, these sacred items were specifically given to the program with a special emphasis on youth.

1999 - 2005:  Weechi-it-te-win is bestowed a traditional drum and spirit helper “mango-inini”, pipe and staff.  As such, Weechi-it-te-win becomes “personified” into a living, breathing entity.

Policies, Service Agreements, positions, corporate documents, are enacted through ceremony

Governance (Executive Board) is conducted through traditional selection ceremony

Guidance is sought through elders and ceremonies.  Consultation for direction is ongoing

2006-08 - Naaniigaan Abinoojii: our central purpose is actualized through community consultation and spiritual direction

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