Treaty 2 Territory – Life Long Learning has been conducting research on what other First Nations communities are doing in the area of early years transitioning. Most research that we’ve come across is found to be based on the Head Start, daycares, and Nursery/Kindergarten.
Currently, LLL is hoping to connect with FNT2T Local Nations via health centres to obtain information on what types of transition planning and/or programming is being offered in communities to support the transition of little ones from home to school. There are communities that offer a home visit nurse who provides first visits to new mothers. I recall receiving a visit when I had my daughter (way back in 2003) and I was very thankful to have another person check in on us as there can be many challenges when becoming a new mom or having more children.
In Winnipeg, there is a program being offered by Wiijii’idiwag Ikwewag for Indigenous mothers called Restoring the Sacred Bond Initiative. They have many programs in place that foster traditional Indigenous (Anishinaabe) child birth and parenting teachings/support but one in particular is offering pre-natal support to expectant mothers. Their focus is to help mothers transition in a good way from birth to parenting. It is all about women helping women. A very important program that is working on the renewal and strengthening of Indigenous ways of birth and parenting.
This program was once called the Manitoba Indigenous Doula Initiative. Some may not have heard of the term, doula. A doula is a bit similar to a midwife; however, this person is not medically-trained–she is an emotional, mental, physical, and depending on the doula and mother, spiritual support for moms. Again, very reminiscent of Indigenous ways of being, and it seems that Wiijii’idiwag Ikwewag has done some great work with this. Thus, a question to ask is whether this type of program, connected with local health centres (public health nurses), would be beneficial in-community?
Doula Canada has an Indigenous Doula Consultant who is part of the eekw’í7tl Indigenous Doula Collective (B.C. First Nations based). She, too, is doing important work in those territories.
When we think about Life Long Learning, we tend to say it begins in pre-natal, so is there a way to further plan and implement an enhanced support system for expectant parents that focuses on the child and fosters the child’s gift(s)? This could mean a doula program in-community where the sole purpose of this role would be to support parents in pre-natal; but also afterward so that little ones can transition from learning and growing at home to, eventually, learning and growing at school because it is believed that children learn the most between birth and the age of three. This would include language learning which is the goal of most if not all First Nations on Turtle Island; thus, Anishinaabemowin could be at the heart of something like this.