Organizers to bring Ohero:kon to Six Nations

The Six Nations Ohero:kon Community Advisory Board invited the community to an engagement session which was held at the GREAT Theatre last Wednesday. The session was set up to allow attendees to share their thoughts and knowledge in the hopes of developing a Six Nations youths rites of passage system, similar to the one in Akwesasne where it originally started.

Ohero:kon is a Kanienkehaka term meaning “Under the Husk” which is used to describe a rites of passage ceremony for youth who are entering into adulthood. According to Ohero:kon principal organizer and leader, Louise McDonald, “It’s easier to prepare a strong boy then repair a broken man. Ohero:kon is now in its 10th year. It’s a 20-week program which runs from January to May and is based in cultural teachings and also features decolonization workshops, survival skills and fasting lodges. Youth get a deeper sense of spirituality and knowing who they are. It tests their ability to be within their own selves,” stated McDonald who explained that over 500 community members have participated in Ohero:kon which has expanded to include activities such as star knowledge, canoe making, planting and energy work.

According to Amber Skye, who sits on the Ohero:kon Community Advisory Board and is also helping organize the Youth Rites of Passage on Six Nations, “In March 2012, we delivered a 3-day workshop with Six Nations youth which led to a Six Nations-Akwesasne community based research partnership. The aim was to evaluate and implement a Ohero:kon intervention for Six Nations and to develop and implement curriculum development. Oneida, Onondaga and Tyendinaga are also interested in bringing Ohero:kon to their territory as well. We want to use the mentorship model that Akwesasne uses and build community partnerships.”
Six Nations community member Kahsenniyo Williams spoke of her experience when she visited Akwesasne for the Rites of Passage ceremony, “I attended some of the workshops. The energy and spirit and the way they (the youth) carried themselves was so amazing. You could tell the youth who did Ohero:kon just by the way they carried themselves. It was so amazing with the impact it had on the entire community. There was so much self-awareness. I’ve always been passionate about the young people and to hear young men talk about respecting women like it was cool, just made me cry.”

Skye explained, “Ohero:kon helps build support within the community and helps build backbone in our youth and makes them stronger both mentally and culturally. That’s where we’re at right now. We have the support of the Six Nations Confederacy Council provided that it’s going to be guided by the community.”
The project has been introduced to the Six Nations Youth Council who sent a small delegation to the community engagement session last week to express their concerns. One youth stated, “My issue is that our youth are getting into drugs and partying while some of the parents know what is going on but choose to do nothing about it. My cousin grows drugs in his own house and the parents know what is going on. It scares me because he might get into other drugs.” The next youth council meeting is July 3 at 5:30 pm at the community hall.

According to the Kahnawake Youth Council who sent a few members to Akwesasne to attend various workshops during Ohero:kon, “It teaches you that being a leader does not always mean being the speaker; sometimes it is about choosing to make your own path.” According to McDonald, “When youth graduate from Ohero:kon they are asked to give advice to the leaders of their community. That in itself is very powerful.”


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