OHSWEKEN – Brightening the Spirit, Breaking the Silence Suicide Awareness Group held their Second Annual Remembering Our Loved Ones Dinner on Monday, December 21 within the Social Services Gym for community members to enjoy.
Attendees had the chance to partake in a free meal, goodie bags and the opportunity to enjoy speakers such as Michelle General and her family, Avery Hill Porter, Rick Hill and members of the Rekindling Our Fires Group, who offered their own words on suicide and traditional teachings. Community members were also given the opportunity to visit a “memory wall,” where they could leave a message, photo or memento, and light a candle in memory of a loved one to float on a pool of water.
Coordinator Dorothy Russell-Patterson said that the event went “really well,” including that without the work of volunteers and staff the event would not have been as successful.
“Remembering Our Loved Ones Dinner is our second annual event now,” said Russell-Patterson. “We’ve been together for about eight months, and Brightening the Spirit, Breaking the Silence is a suicide initiative on Six Nations, and we have fourteen committed members that bring a variety of skills and expertise to the table,” she explained.
“We have attempted to create awareness because there were gaps that we found, or some missing pieces once the event of suicide had occurred, and the crisis response occurred and the business of the funeral has to occur, and we have heard people in pain. So, in trying to reach out to people we found that those of us that have experienced that area of our life, we really found that love and support was key to getting us through that very difficult time,” she said. “So, together we created a mission statement. It’s to reduce the stigma of suicide, and to explore life promoting strategies for our people and those that have lost someone to suicide. So, here we are, celebrating our second year together, and some great things have happened to us,” she said, adding that the group has developed partnerships.
“We have a strong partnership with Six Nations Child and Family Services, we have Rekindling Our Fires Group now partnering off with us and we’re going to help wherever we can in each area. We have the Mental Health here on Six Nations as well as the Mental Health in Brantford who are secure partners as well,” she said, later adding that the Diocese of Huron made a $3,000 donation to help fund the dinner.
Russell-Patterson shared that those in attendance were given the opportunity to speak as well, as many people are in different stages of their journeys. She also shared that more people had shown up than just those that had registered, which was a good sign.
“I think we had 128 people who registered, and I think we had 15 more come through the door. But we cooked for 150, so we’re in a good speed,” she said, explaining that visitors could take food home or help themselves to seconds.
The night ended after Artie Martin recited the Thanksgiving Address, with attendees leaving with the sense that grief support has grown even larger within the Six Nations community.
Cutlines: Photo by Chezney Martin