Pre Weechi-it-te-win

For hundreds of years our people took care of one another, they lived their lives according to ancient traditions, and customs and values that were passed along from one generation to the next.  Families helped and supported one another and worked together to protect our most revered members: our children and our Elders. 

When families had difficulties or when children required care beyond what their natural parents could provide, extended family or community members stood in as alternative caregivers.  The ways in which the extended family and community cared for our children were and still are embedded in traditional community customs.  Foreign laws and methods imposed on our people had a devastating effect of our families and our culture. 

Today, we honor our ancestors that kept our ways and our language alive through such hostile times.

Why Weechi-it-te-win was born

The 1965 Welfare Agreement between the province of Ontario and the federal government permitted non-Aboriginal child welfare agencies to extend child welfare services to aboriginal communities province wide. Prior to 1965, child welfare services had been provided on an ad hoc basis by federal Indian agents who frequented aboriginal communities on other business. The 1965 agreement led to further deterioration of Anishinaabe family systems as non-aboriginal child protection authorities removed aboriginal children from their families and placed them in non-aboriginal foster homes. The removal of children further disregarded the importance of Anishinaabe culture; demonstrated a blatant disrespect for tribal authority; and left families ill-equipped to deal with the social implications that resulted from the loss of generations of children.

In the absence of community-based support programs to help and strengthen families, and prevention programs to reinforce cultural pride, some communities saw several generations of their children become socialized to non-aboriginal culture.  There was a significant decrease in language speakers; traditional customs were weakened, and traditional family and tribal systems were not utlized.

In 1977, the communities of Big Grassy and Big Island appealed to the non-aboriginal child welfare agency responsible for delivering child welfare services to the First Nations located in the Rainy River District. Through the cooperative efforts of the Children’s Aid Society and these two communities, the Native Child Welfare Prevention Program was born. Consequently, alternative methods for helping aboriginal children and their families were explored and the number of children removed from aboriginal communities was drastically reduced.

Although the Native Child Welfare Preventions Program actively sought to involve First Nation communities in various aspects of child welfare services, the non-aboriginal agency retained control of the decision making process. Further discussions eventually led to a study which examined alternatives to providing non-aboriginal child welfare services to aboriginal communities. The Native Child Welfare Prevention Workers (Moses Tom and Joseph Big George) spearheaded the process of examining alternative models of services delivery and were a pivotal force in articulating a service delivery model developed by and for aboriginal people.

The Community Care Program outlined a community-based service delivery mechanism and alternative care model which would someday replace centralized, non-aboriginal child welfare services. In the interim, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services was chosen by the Rainy River District Tribal authority to be the parasol for coordinating the eventual devolution of child welfare services back to the control of First Nation communities.