New book a compendium of Indigenous knowledge and teachings from the Friendship Centre Movement
Toronto, March 30, 2022 – Today, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) launches Finishing the Sweetgrass Braid, a new book by Senior Researcher Aleksandra Bergier with Knowledge Keeper and former OFIFC Executive Director Sylvia Maracle. This book is a legacy collection of essential knowledge and teachings from the Friendship Centre Movement, exploring what Indigenous knowledge is passed down, how it is shared through urban Indigenous communities and its fundamental importance for future generations.
The result of a multi-year research project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), its goal is to gather and identify wise practices and traditional guidance as part of efforts to restore and revitalize Indigenous knowledge. The act of “finishing the sweetgrass braid” refers to the importance of returning to the Original Instructions on how to live as a human being and how things are made stronger by integrating the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. This knowledge needed to be reclaimed, nurtured, and implemented to ensure its continuity across Friendship Centres and Indigenous communities. It is the process of piecing back together the knowledge that was disrupted by colonization and government-sanctioned assimilation strategies.
Indigenous knowledge is community-driven, grounded in the shared everyday experiences and practices of the Federation. Researchers observed and participated in community events and activities, conducted focus groups and interviews. They followed specific protocols to credit the knowledge shared by Elders and community members.
The book is primarily intended for the Indigenous communities whose knowledge this is. Mainstream readers can gain an appreciation of Indigenous community knowledge, work of the Friendship Centre Movement, and better understand how to support. These teachings can also be shared and potentially applied in other institutions and organizations within a framework of partnership, respect and reconciliation. The book can be pre-ordered from GoodMinds at GoodMinds.com.
“We are thrilled to share this story of the Friendship Centre Movement since the 1950s. Finishing the Sweetgrass Braid is a window into the passionate work of generations of urban First Nation, Inuit and Metis People, our families, our communities, and their efforts in restoring and redefining the interconnectedness of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of urban Indigenous peoples.” – OFIFC Chief Executive Officer Gertie Mai Muise
“The knowledge shared in this special writing is a sacred gift and blessing. It’s a heartfelt testimony to the ongoing dedication to the well-being of urban Indigenous communities within the Friendship Centre movement. The OFIFC staff and I are committed to doing our part in finishing the sweetgrass braid. We are humbled, grateful and proud standing on the solid foundations built by Sylvia Maracle and many others, so we can continue to heal, change, grow and thrive.” – OFIFC Chief Executive Officer Gertie Mai Muise
“This work is a profoundly significant contribution to the renaissance and legacy of Indigenous knowledge. Like the strands in a sweetgrass braid, each person along the path helped make our bundle. We are grateful and honour those who shared these invaluable gifts. Now that the fire has been rekindled, we will continue to tend to it so that our communities can grow and thrive.” – Knowledge Keeper and former OFIFC Executive Director Sylvia Maracle
“This book is the life story of the OFIFC – its history, present and future – about how it transfers knowledge internally and externally. These teachings are immeasurably helpful to Indigenous communities, and to society at large, with great potential for reconciliatory education. It was an immense privilege and honour to be part of this community-driven research.” – Senior Researcher Aleksandra Bergier
“The OFIFC has done ground-breaking, incredible work documenting these practices, reviving and rebuilding this knowledge that carries us into the future. Having this book on your shelf, like a story, you can return to it again and again as you’re called to understand different pieces of knowledge at different times.” – Principal Investigator Kim Anderson
Excerpts from Finishing the Sweetgrass Braid:
“We have been busy braiding cultural knowledge, values, and practice together and trying to transfer what we have learned not only to the community members who came through our doors but also to Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners we created relationships with… We have been creative, designing innovative programs and building safe havens where people can actually experience the truth of our teachings and feel surrounded by love.” – Sylvia Maracle (xvii)
[Knowledge transfer] support has been crucial to securing family healing, promoting cultural safety, and building a long-lasting culture of learning for urban Indigenous people. (p. 9)
The OFIFC draws from many teachings to ground its work. The most prominent ones are the teaching of gratitude, Creation stories, the Original Instructions (the teaching of kindness, honesty, sharing, and strength), the Anishinaabe teachings on the Seven Stages of a Good Life, and the Haudenosaunee teachings on the Pathway to Peace. (p. 12)
This quality of sweetgrass reflects the fundamental value of relationships. It teaches us that people can easily get discouraged when they work on their own. However, collaborating with others makes it much easier to finish the braid. (p. 38)
Humour has been identified as one of the most effective Indigenous knowledge transfer tools and can be used to express gratitude… Many Elders who visit the OFIFC community use humour consistently in their teachings in order to make Indigenous knowledge more accessible. (p. 13)
Stories are one of the most prominent knowledge transmission and knowledge rejuvenation tools, frequently used by the Knowledge Keepers and the staff. The Federation deliberately creates spaces for active listening where traditional teachers share Creation stories, personal anecdotes, collective memories, and individual life experiences… (p. 80)
The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) represents the collective interests of 29 Friendship Centres in cities and towns across the province. Friendship Centres are places for community members and Indigenous people living in urban spaces to gather, connect with one another and receive culturally based services. Friendship Centres improve the lives of urban Indigenous people by supporting self-determined activities which encourage equal access to, and participation in, Canadian society while respecting Indigenous cultural distinctiveness.
For further information:
Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
416-956-7575, Ext. 417