At Six Nations of the Grand River, the movement to address family violence in our community began in 1986 when concerned community members began to meet about family violence. Initially the concern was for battered women and their children. For some years, members of our community had been sheltering women and children who fled their homes from violence. From this experience, they came to understand the fear and life-threatening danger in confronting an abusive spouse. They came to understand how services outside our community often compounded the fear and isolation of our women and children who were being abused.
Rallied by the late Wilma General, Reva Bomberry, Alice Bomberry, and the late Shirley Farmer, they took their concerns to Six Nations Band Council. This small group of women were later joined by Joanna Bedard, Dorothy Russell and the late Belva Monture. With the endorsement of Band Council, they formed the Ganǫhkwásra Steering Committee. The job of this committee was to develop services for battered women and to seek funding to develop and operate a program.
A comprehensive study was then undertaken by the steering committee in the summer of 1987. Phase I of the project determined how many women in our community were being abused or were at risk of being abused. It also determined how many children in our community were living in violent homes and/or were at risk of being abused. Phase II of the project designed a program to address the needs of the Six Nations community in relation to family violence services from the philosophical base of our culture and values.
From its conception, Ganǫhkwásra has responded to the community’s needs. The initial priority was safe housing with a vision to create a place where women could learn how to be strong again and take their rightful place within our community as leaders. With financial assistance from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as well as the province of Ontario, construction of the shelter began in the fall of 1991. At first, some community members felt the building should be located in an unknown, hidden location. However, the Ganǫhkwásra Steering Committee was determined to have the shelter built in a prominent location so the community would be forced to recognize the impact family violence has on our people. Ganǫhkwásra was built in the village of Ohsweken on Chiefswood Road, in the centre of our community service and business sector.
The founding Board of Directors, as well as the Director of the organization, focused on the needs of the community and our values of family. They recognized that every person (men, women, youth and children) has the potential to be abusive or a victim of abuse. We continue to recognize this today, as the organization works towards the stabilization, maintenance, revitalization and enhancement of individuals for the restoration of family units through residential services, community counselling services, transitional support services, community education and volunteer programs.
Since 1986, Ganǫhkwásra Family Assault Support Services has evolved into a successful, professionally operated community service. We are extremely proud of the accomplishments we have made over the years. We acknowledge the healing power and availability of mainstream services in nearby communities, especially during our earlier years when we could not meet all of the needs of our people. Today, we offer our community member’s unique, creative and spiritually-based services. We will continue to move ahead and help our people heal from the traumas of family violence and sexual assault, right here in our own community. It is our goal to enable families to find strength and support in the values and customs of our culture. It is through Ganǫhkwásra (love among us) that we can put an end to family violence. Everything we need is there for us in our original teachings, in our original way of being.