SIX NATIONS – Returning and new participants in the youth rites of passage program Ohero:kon “Under the Husk,” were able to register to begin or to resume their journeys into adulthood on Sunday, February 18, at the Dajoh Youth and Elders Building. The program showed great success with youth in Akwesasne Territory where it began
SIX NATIONS – Returning and new participants in the youth rites of passage program Ohero:kon “Under the Husk,” were able to register to begin or to resume their journeys into adulthood on Sunday, February 18, at the Dajoh Youth and Elders Building.
The program showed great success with youth in Akwesasne Territory where it began 12 years ago, as participants there were taught traditional Haudenosaunee teachings that helped in their transition to adulthood throughout the course of 20 weeks. As children and youth make up more than 48 per cent of the indigenous population in Canada, recognizing the importance of helping youth in their transitions from childhood to adulthood was the first step for those that carried the program to Six Nations four years ago.
Amber Skye who serves as a youth mentor explained that those helping with the program have focused on attracting youth that would be able to invest the amount of time needed to partake in the program.
“We don’t do too much advertising,” said Skye. “A lot of times the families that are interested reach us through people involved and they come that way. We’ve really been doing it that way for the past four years because it just seems like those are the youth that are really engaged.”
This year the program is expecting to see returning participants ranging from their second to fourth years and up to 15 new faces who will begin their journeys.
“What it’s really for is to prepare youth for adulthood,” she said. “A lot of the teachings are what we would have learned naturally in our homes a long time ago, but because our people have become disconnected from that knowledge and those teachings they’re not really giving that to our young people anymore. So, we bring in people that carry that knowledge and help them to work with the youth.”
The journey requires participants to dedicate a full seven years; four years to be spent with the group and three to be spent solo. They then must choose two helpers either from their own family or from available mentors — girls must select two “aunties” and boys must select two “uncles,” who will then help them on their journey as well as incorporate the teachings taught throughout the program dates.
The eight dates of the program on Six Nations span from Sunday, March 4, to Sunday, June 3. The dates include teachings and activities such as picking traditional medicines to topics such as dealing with grief and trauma. At the end of the eight weeks the youth are then taught how to manage a fire, build a shelter and fast under the supervision of their families for as many days they have taken part in the program — the longest fast being four days for fourth year participants.
Head Program Leader Elva Jamieson explained that the dates with the speakers also allow the families of the participants to learn as well, rather than it being like a “drop-in” program.
“We need to hold our youth high and hold them in high esteem, and that isn’t happening and it hasn’t happened for a long time,” said Jamieson. “But this isn’t just for the students or participants, because even on this paper here with the schedule it says that it’s also for the youths families. So that’s the aunties and uncles but also the moms and dads, because when you think of it – in our communities now there’s a lot of people that don’t have these teachings.”
“This lady this morning was saying ‘I’ve never even heard of this, I’m this old and I’ve never heard of this so where is it coming from,’ and it’s because it’s been so lost,” she said. “It’s been there but it’s not been advertised and the lady was wondering if she could learn it herself and its like, yes.”
Jamieson also explained that it is more beneficial for the youth to have their families learn the teachings too, as helping just one generation can cause problems when that generation needs support later on.
The program has also caught the attention of the Good Minds Youth Life Promotion from Six Nations Social Services, which was hoped for in the long run. Supervisor Barbara Rowe said that Skye brought this to her attention to help with reconnecting youth to cultural traditions and teachings.
“Our program is supporting this program,” said Rowe. “I’ll be here physically to support and some of our staff will be coming out each week to help support.”
The Ohero:kon “Under the Husk” program itself has yet to have a participant that hasn’t benefited from the experience positively. If you have any enquiries visit the Ohero:kon Youth Rites of Passage