Executive Director, Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services, Six Nations of the Grand River
She:kon Wa’tkonnonhweraton (I send you thanks, greeting and love). I am Mohawk, Turtle Clan, born and raised on the Six Nations of the Grand River. My partner and I have also raised our two sons here within our territory. We both come from generations of lacrosse families, and so we are very proud that our sons continue to carry on the integrity and pride of our lacrosse family legacy. Today, I have a new love in my life, my first grandson Zachary Benjamin who was born on November 17, 2010. I blessed to be anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second grandchild whom I am sure will also be my newest little love. I give thanks to Creator for gifting our family with these little ones we have, and those yet to come.
I completed my Bachelors Degree at University of Waterloo in 1992. I graduated with my Masters in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier in 1994. I also completed a two-year certificate program in Play Therapy at the University of Western Ontario. I worked within the community as a private therapist and consultant for 8 years before going to Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services to take on the challenge of supervising the sexual assault unit within my own First Nations community for 4 years. I am the author of the Eagle Child series which are a series of books developed to educate children about sexual assault and abusive behaviors from a First Nations perspective. I taught a Native Spirituality course to M.S.W.’s for 3 years at Wilfrid Laurier University which combined social work and First Nations spirituality. I was the Supervisor of Ganohkwasra’s Women’s Community Counselling Team for 4 years which consisted of 6 amazing, devoted and loving social workers who worked with native women and men impacted by family violence.
In 2008, I became the Director of Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services. I am proud to work for Ganohkwasra due to the encouragement and support we offer to learn and practice a variety of unique and holistic energy-based techniques such as EFT; Reiki; TAT; EMDR; Psychodramatic Bodywork and Hypnotherapy. I cannot begin to convey the love and respect I have for the multi-talented women and men I work beside each and every day, devoted to ending family violence and abuse within our First Nations community. Our staff are truly amazing people that I am honored to know.
Since the summer of 2009, I began a part-time practice which I do out of my home. I believe in helping people the very that best I can. This was the nature of my mother and a quality I cherish and try to foster each and every day.
I believe in the strength of my people and our own Haudenosaunee ways of living and healing. I am able to stay grounded by leaning on the wisdom of my own culture and traditions. I give thanks to my Creator for my family and all those I have in my life.
I am a proud member of the Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario Board of Directors working beside a group of amazing First Nations women who are truly Trailblazers in the Social Work field. We strive to represent the First Nations women, children and men we see in our shelters every day. Our united goal is to end family violence within all First Nations communities and territories. May we possess the wisdom, strength, good-mindedness and love to do our part to make this happen
Director of Programs, Atlohsa Family Healing Services, London
Boozhoo! Mushk Ode N’dizhnikaz. Waabizheshi N’dodem. Chimnissing nindonjibaa. My name is Charisse Sayer and I am also known as Strong Heart. I am Anishnaabe Kwe, Marten Clan and a member of the Beausoleil First Nation located on Christian Island. I moved from Waterloo to the London area in August 2016 for work and to raise my three beautiful children close to our culture, language and traditions.
I am the Manager of Housing and Shelter Services at Atlohsa Family Healing Services. In my role, I oversee the operations of the agency, supportive housing and our 16 bed shelter – Zhaawanong. Our agency and shelter offer an extensive range of programs, services and support groups to First Nations, Inuit and Metis women, children, youth and men in the London and surrounding First Nation communities. Our programs are rooted in a holistic framework, informed by Indigenous knowledge and delivered in a culturally safe environment. Our team also participates with a number of outreach and educational events in partnership with community agencies, First Nation initiatives, the VAW sector and the Thames Valley District School Board.
I am a proud member of the Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario Board of Directors. The board and members of ASOO have a wealth of knowledge and experience, are dedicated to end family violence and are devoted to the recovery of culture and revitalization of healing and wellness in our urban and rural communities. My experience with ASOO is instrumental in the work I do for Atlohsa because our membership embodies teachings of peace, respect and friendship in our collaboration with each other, community and funding partners.
Executive Director, Beendigan Shelter, Thunder Bay
Hou koda, my name is Debra Vermette and I am a proud member of the Wahpeton Dakota Nation located just outside of Prince Albert Saskatchewan. I am the Executive Director of Beendigen Anishinabe Women’s Crisis Home & Family Healing Agency located in Thunder Bay. We are a 24 bed shelter for Indigenous women who have experienced, are at risk of experiencing or have been or are being affected by violence and/or abuse. We offer a variety of programs and services with goal of empowering women and ending the violence against them.
Since joining Beendigen in 2005, as a Relief Resident Counsellor, working with the women and their families in the shelter, I’ve held various progressive positions. In 2016, I was appointed Executive Director of the organization. I have a Business of Administration degree and an Honours Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) degree from Lakehead University. Though I started my career working in the non-traditional field I had always progressed to management positions. I believe this experience, along with my education, have prepared me for the role I am in today. I am a firm believer in the idea that we are where we are today because that is where Creator needs us to be.
I am honoured to be a board member of the Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario. Elected to the board in 2015, this experience has given me the opportunity to walk with amazing and dedicated women who work tirelessly to end the violence against Indigenous women.
Executive Director, Minwaashin Lodge Indigenous Women’s Support Centre, Ottawa
Mary Daoust is the Executive Director for Minwaashin Lodge-Aboriginal Women’s Support Centre in Ottawa, Ont since June 30, 2014. In this role, Mary oversees all operations of the agency and our 21 bed shelter –Oshki Kizis Lodge. The agency and the shelter offer a wide range of programs and services to First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and children who are survivors of domestic and other forms of violence, and who may also be suffering the effects of the residential school system. The programs and services are provided in the context of cultural beliefs and values to ensure a holistic approach is being used as part of their healing journey. Mary serves as an active member on the Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario Board of Directors and sits on numerous committees throughout Ottawa both mainstream and First Nations. Originally from Sioux Lookout, Ontario – a small community in northwestern Ontario, this Ojibway woman left her small community to pursue her dreams of working with Aboriginal women and children.
Chi Meegwetch for the Creators blessings in placing me where I am needed most.
Nimkii-Naabkawagan Family Crisis Shelter, Batchewana First Nation
Boozhoo. My name is Jennifer Syrette. I am an Anishinabe kwe and am from the Crane clan. I am a member of the Batchewana First Nation and reside on the Rankin Reserve. I am a proud mother to my son, who is my greatest teacher.
For 10 years I worked in my community as an ECE teacher in our daycare. During this I volunteered with the Sault Area Native Elders Association, as well as continued my studies part-time. In 2008, I obtained my Bachelor of Indian Social Work through the University of Regina. I then moved north, where I worked as a Probation and Parole Officer in the James Bay Area for a few years until moving home to work as a Family Support Worker in my community and surrounding First Nation communities. In 2013, I was hired as Executive Director for the Nimkii-Naabkawagan Family Crisis Shelter in Batchewana First Nation. I continue to volunteer and have been appointed to various committees within my community. I am grateful for the experiences of working with many families and people within various life stages of the medicine wheel and am dedicated to providing support within my sphere of influence. My involvement with the ASOO BOD has been a wonderful opportunity to make positive change and connect with others who share a similar passion for our people. Miigwetch.
Mishkeegogamang Safe House, Mishkeegogamang First Nation
Aanii, My name is Mellissa Skunk. I am an Ojibway woman from a northern remote community called Mishkeegogamang First Nation. Mishkeegogamang is located about 500 kilometers west north of Thunder Bay Ontario. I was raised by my grandmother and my great grandmother on their trap line which I am forever grateful for as I learned the ways of living off the land and being with nature and all its beauty. Respecting this way of life has always been a big part of me, and always called me home when I was away.
I am a mother of six beautiful children, and a grandmother of five precious babies. I became a mother at a very young age, and my children define who I am today, every decision I made in life stemmed from wanting to raise my children in a safe environment which at the time required relocation away from the community.
After some time of absence from my community pursuing my education, I came back to my home community and started my social work career in child welfare. It was then I decided I needed to further my education and attended a two year program in Social Work with FNTI. I recognized I needed to work on my own past issues and traumas in order to effectively work with the children I worked with, my cases consisted of high risk youth whom I adored and related to in terms of their dysfunctional upbringing.
I now am the Shelter Coordinator in my community and also participate in various programming and engaging with other resources within the community, I am very proud at how far my community has come in terms of ending violence, although we still deal with it, we have a shelter in the community that serves as a safe place for women and children fleeing from family violence.
The past five years I have been back in my community, being a part of family violence prevention and working with women and children has been rewarding knowing that there is a safe place for women and children, also, just as my grandmother raised me it is now my turn to take care of my grandmother who is now 97 years old. She is my rock, and forever grateful to my kokum, my life as I know it is because of her, and very much a huge part of my life.
First Step Women’s Shelter, Sioux Lookout
Tana Troniak has been the Executive Director of First Step Women’s Shelter for the past 12 years. Prior to her move to Sioux Lookout Tana worked at Faye Peterson Transition House in Thunder Bay for 16 years as the Finance Manager. Tana has over 27 years of experience working in the Violence Against Women Sector and has been involved in many community organizations and boards.
Tana is an advocate for indigenous women in the shelter system, and the issues surrounding women living in rural and remote first nation communities. She has been a strong voice to those living in other parts of Ontario and has spoken on the struggle’s indigenous women face regarding violence against women, isolation, transportation issues and other challenges women face when leaving their home community.
Tana has implemented many policies at First Step Women’s Shelter that include harm reduction, anti-racism/anti-oppression framework, and created a more open and accepting environment for women struggling with mental health and addictions issues.
Shelter Operations Supervisor, Onyota’a:ka Family Healing Lodge, Oneida Nation of the Thames
Rebecca Wolfe, leads a dynamic team at the Onyota’a:ka Family Healing Lodge and is passionate about helping vulnerable people along their healing journey.
As the directing mind, she is a believer in being accountable and assisting people who have been through traumatic experiences to develop and strengthen healthy perceptions about themselves so they can work towards independence, peace and love.
Rebecca understands that no single approach is right for every individual, and so she has developed a team who delivers a wide range of modalities through Advocacy, Referrals, Programming and Supports that helps to empower individuals to create a life without violence while promoting a holistic approach to healing. She loves getting people energized about being the best person that they can be.
Outside of the office, she enjoys spending time with her husband by the pool and with their 4 long haired Chihuahuas and 1 cat. She also likes spending quite time painting, making candles and shopping.
Nimkii-Naabkawagan Family Crisis Shelter, Batchewana First Nation
Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services, Six Nations of the Grand River
Fort Albany Women’s Shelter, Fort Albany
Mishkeegogamang Safe House
Hamilton Native Women’s Centre, Hamilton
Onyota’a:ka Family Healing Lodge, Oneida Nation of the Thames
Whitefish Bay Women’s Shelter, Whitefish Bay
© ASOO 2019