OHSWEKEN – Last Wednesday afternoon in Veteran’s Memorial Park musician Derek Miller presented two cheques totalling over $4000 to Brightening the Spirits and Breaking The Silence (BSBS) and the Six Nations Health Care Dialysis Unit. About 50 people were in attendance at the gathering, which came with a free and healthy packed lunch. Tables were set up displaying the BSBS logo contest, brochures with useful and relevant information were handed out, and different research findings that were conducted in the community were made available.
The Six Nations Health Team also made an appearance. They happened to be doing outreach work involving Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) education and prevention at the BMO across the street and decided to join the gathering. They were gladly welcomed because as one of the other organizers from BSBS, Dorothy Russell Patterson stated, “It is our mission to partner with local community services.”
Carly Vyce, a Six Nations Health Services employee of 6 years who works on pre-natal health and FASD diagnosis, was doing FASD education at the event. They have been travelling throughout the community informing the public about alcohol use during pregnancy, revealing that even males who consume alcohol 6-8 hours prior to conception can contribute to their child having FASD. Their information table was filled with research on FASD as well as interactive games with prizes. The team states that their mission and message is simple: “to help people live a good healthy life” and that “one drop lasts a lifetime”.
Brightening the Spirits and Breaking the Silence, began in January of 2014 with 12 people stepping forward to raise awareness about high rates of suicide in the community and the need to take action through prevention. The group conducted community research to determine needs, services gaps, and the health and life factors leading to higher suicide rates. They received 167 completed questionnaires from the 254 that they distributed.
The resulting data was upsetting but also provided some insight as to what direction community services should take in order to best serve the needs of the community. Over 80% of people stated that they had been personally affected by suicide, and roughly the same percentage of people desired programs like talking circles, “table of memories”, and healing services. Patterson says she will passionately continue to do work with her community and begin erasing the stigma attached to suicide issues and discussion, while acknowledging her family, friends and community for their love and support to be able to do so. She believes it is necessary to open up, break-down walls, and overcome barriers, stating, “We need to be able to share our pain, when we can’t, we become emotionally fragile.” BSBS encourages all youth aged 12-29 to participate in their logo creation contest. The winner receives a $250 VISA gift card and the contest closes October 21st.
The donated monies were raised during Swinefest, a yearly music benefit concert event that Derek Miller and his family began four years ago to give back to the community. Their efforts have resulted in financial donations to other programs throughout Six Nations like the Mohawk Language Program, diabetes assistance services, services for elders and more. Besides Swinefest 2015, the Miller family has also begun talking with APTN and communities about a multi-city telethon for issues surrounding MMIW.
Derek spoke passionately about Onkwehon:we people taking their issues into their own hands, so there is no reliance or waiting for grants to be approved when things need to be done. He speaks of the need for self-determination free of the Canadian state’s help and restrictions. Derek emphasized that, “We must always celebrate life, and choose love over fear.” Vicki Martin, Derek’s aunt states that it was Derek who pulled her into getting involved years ago, and stated that anyone who wishes to volunteer for their upcoming events can contact her at 519-445-2428.