Vibrant Communities In Focus
Image Credit: Brigitte Bouvier
Ottawa, Ontario

Minwaashin Lodge opened in 1993 as an aboriginal women's support centre. Irene Compton, one of the founders, says women arrive feeling lost, some with addiction problems, often homeless, unaware of the strength of their heritage. Minwaashin offers them aboriginal wisdom and guidance. "Trillium helps us in so many ways with our programs. They helped pay for an important walk by our oldest women, all grandmothers. They called it their Walk for the Waters, because, as aboriginal women, we're taught to protect nature. These grandmothers walked from Ottawa to Niagara Falls! They held a ceremony under the falls with sweetgrass and tobacco. It was empowering. They'd all gone through the residential schools and had lost their sense of identity. Then at Minwaashin, they cried, they told their stories, and they healed. They became the Wisdom Keepers. It helped them stand in their own power and be leaders." Nancy Myatt knows first-hand the power within Minwaashin. She arrived as an alcoholic, unclear about who she really was. "The native spirituality is what finally healed me. The women took care of me. The acceptance and the ceremonies mean so much: the drum circle, the pipe ceremonies, passing the feather, telling our stories. Grandmother Irene Lindsay is my elder. She says I will find my own way. Something was always missing in my life and now look at me: I (discovered) am Algonquin and Mohawk. I am proud and I am not alone. They are with me, every step along the way. This culture and this place saved my life."