Rites of Passage making positive community strides
Ohero:kon, a rites of passage ceremony that originated in Akwesasne, is making its way to Six Nations, with the help of the Six Nations Ohero:kon Community Advisory Board. This ceremony prepares youth for the responsibility of adulthood through traditional rites of passage ceremonies, according to organizer Amber Skye.
Skye feels the rites of passage ceremony is needed for the youth on Six Nations because, “There is limited practice of transition rituals and our youth are suffering.” Skye explained to the Two Row Times that, “During adolescence, young people go through many changes as they move from childhood into physical maturity and begin to separate from their parents and establish their own identity. During this transitional period, youth are the most open and the most vulnerable, needing positive parenting, nurturing and guidance to help them find and follow a good path.”
However, Skye has found through extensive research at Six Nations that, “Our youth for the most part, are left unguided through this very sensitive stage of development.” The Ohero:kon Rites of Passage ceremony will help support youth making that sensitive and vulnerable transition into adulthood. “The Ohero:kon ritual is designed to guide youth through this critical stage with the support of people who care about them (aunties, uncles, parents and community leaders) to support them through the struggles of adolescence in a healthy way.”
Skye feels that Ohero:kon supports the need for youth programming which is based on Indigenous knowledge. “Ohero:kon restores cultural knowledge of coming of age as a preparatory process for youth as they transition to adulthood. Through cultural teachings, Ohero:kon connects youth with their cultural knowledge and traditions to develop their understandings of identity, life, and creation,” explained Skye.
Some of the teachings in Ohero:kon include: cultural understandings of puberty, healthy behaviours and roles and responsibilities. “From the positive outcomes of Ohero:kon in Akwesasne, we believe that youth who transition through Ohero:kon emerge with more positive understandings of identity, relationships, communication and behaviours are created fostering resilience and community health. Youth also develop deeper appreciation for the necessities of life, and greater respect for the environment.”
Asked on why Ohero:kon is needed for the youth on Six Nations, Skye explained that most of the youth here are, “Self-guided, or unguided, through puberty, or they tend to learn what they do from the media which often misguides them.” With the influence of reality-TV shows such as Jersey Shore, many youth on Six Nations are provided with poor examples, since these types of TV shows fail to provide morals, values and self-respect. And it is because of these types of shows in the media that Skye believes our, “Youth will struggle and run the risk of struggling alone, and under-equipped, with many of the things that now serve as rites of passage for most community youth – drugs, alcohol, violence, and recklessness.”
Since Ohero:kon was introduced to Six Nations a few months ago, much progress has been made. “Over the past couple of months we have been working on developing aunties and uncles roles and responsibilities. We are working on providing teachings for aunties and uncles to help prepare them to take on those mentorship roles for Ohero:kon youth,” stated Skye.
But it doesn’t end there, explained Skye, “We need to continue our consultation with community leadership and Elders to develop Ohero:kon teachings. We want to make sure that we are providing the youth with the teachings that will prepare them for adulthood as Haudenosaunee people, and we need the help of traditional leadership, Elders and the community. We also need to develop the space where Ohero:kon will take place and we need young men and women volunteers (aunties and uncles) to help with that. We are still seeking additional community leaders and Elders to help guide the project, and of course youth. We will begin recruitment this fall for youth interested in participating.”
With so much turmoil on Six Nations and the current power struggle between various factions on the territory, the youth who graduate from Ohero:kon may be able to help heal divisions within the community. Skye explained that after youth in Akwesasne complete Ohero:kon in Akwesasne, they are asked to give a message to their leadership. “This is something we plan on doing here at Six Nations. To date we have received the support of the Confederacy Council for this work and we hope to have them present to receive the messages that the youth might have. However, I think the youth would welcome Elected Council representatives to hear their messages as well.”
Ohero:kon is still in development and Skye welcomes the input of the community. You can join their Facebook page ‘Ohero:kon – Rites of Passage Six Nations’ for more information on meetings and upcoming events.