2023 Breaking Trail Forum: The Answers Lie Within The Communities

What does a brighter future look like? What services do communities and families need to thrive? What is Tikinagan’s role in the future? These three questions were posed to Tikinagan’s 30 First Nations and more than 150 community members who attended the Niigaanshkaawin Breaking Trail forum in Thunder Bay, February 14-16.

Niigaanshkaawin, which means “walking ahead or first to walk ahead,” aptly describes the goal to have our communities breaking trail on a new, proactive path to support and integrate First Nation Representative programs and First Nation law making.

“The Niigaanshkaawin Forum was a good, first step in helping shape the pathway for Tikinagan’s future and our 30 First Nations in deciding and implementing the right path for their child welfare systems,” said Robin Bunting, Niigaanshkaawin Project Manager.

The Forum welcomed Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), who are the first of our 30 First Nations to have their law formally passed and come into force this Spring, share their experience with the development and implementation of their Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Dibenjikewin Onaakonikewin (KIDO) law. KIDO was passed in November 2019 by Kl Chief and Council through a ratification process, after community engagement and acceptance from Kl members.

“Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug has demonstrated how much work is required to do this work,” said Esther McKay, Niigaanshkaawin Project Manager. “It’s a long process, but they remained committed to their community and their people to establish a way of caring for children and families. They have helped break trail for many of our communities who are eagerly ready follow in their footsteps, and Niigaanshkaawin is ready to support them.”

In addition, communities learned about:

  • Tikinagan Child and Family Services, particularly the history of Tikinagan and its creation to provide culturally-specific child and family services that emphasize an Indigenous approach to child welfare
  • First Nation Representatives, who help families navigate their way through the child welfare system by providing additional support and services for our families who need it through prevention measures
  • An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis Children, Youth and Families, which is legislation that reaffirms First Nations authority and jurisdiction to care for our children, our way
  • First Nations Law Making Processes and Service Delivery Options that allow communitiestorevitalize and develop their own child welfare laws using current legislation

“This Forum gave community members the opportunity to be heard as they begin to determine their path,” said McKay. “We heard from the Elders, from community members, and it’s clear: the answers lie within the communities, which is the original vision of the Chiefs and the focus of our Forum.”

McKay added that Niigaanshkaawin will support communities to embrace traditional ways of raising children so they can walk with our youth and help build support services for each community.

A full report summarizing the findings from the Forum will be released this spring.

To see pictures from event click here.