Cultural Coordinator: Cecil Sveinson
Cecil was hired as the Cultural Coordinator for SECFS in April 2017, after retiring from a 25-year career in policing. Cecil has been an instructor, trainer, and facilitator for 20 years, and is a past recipient of the Aboriginal Circle of Educator’s Cultural Educator of the Year Award, plus Dimension Magazine’s Indigenous Advocate of the Year.
Some Programs Established and Accomplishments to Date:
- Sweat Lodge Ceremony and Facility – SECFS has a spring/summer/fall outdoor lodge and a winter indoor lodge, both sweat lodges are located within a 45-minute drive from Winnipeg. A number of youth in care participated in the construction of these lodges, and since April 2017, 28 sweat lodge ceremonies have been held for the SECFS children in care (CICs).
- Eagle Staff – An eagle staff belonging to the SECFS CICs. The eagle staff is used by the Anishinaabe to represent families, communities and nations. After several Agency youths participated in fasting ceremonies and shared their dreams with elders, it was determined that the CIC required spiritual acknowledgement of who they are. This eagle staff was first unveiled at the SECFS high school graduation ceremony in June and is now brought to all cultural activities. Eagle staff carriers are selected for each event as a means of acknowledging the commitment of a CIC to Mino-Bimaadiziwin “living a good life”.
- Honouring Gifts Ceremony – This year’s high school graduation event was conducted in a culturally-appropriate manner. A male and female elder from Brokenhead was present, and each graduate was honoured for their accomplishments in a traditional blanketing ceremony. One youth was presented with an eagle feather (the highest honour amongst the Anishinaabe) for her leadership in advocating for programming and services for two-spirited children in care.
- Zongiigabowen (Standing Strong Together) Young Men’s Group – These young men in the high school age range have participated in cultural retreats where there are land-based and cultural activities involved. In August, the group travelled to Squamish First Nation in British Columbia where they gathered lava rocks for the Agency’s sweat lodges. One youth acknowledged he started the group as a gang member and has since quit the gang life to continue his involvement with his Zongiigabowen ‘brothers’, where the young men support and encourage one another to lead a healthy life.
- Strong Spirit Wind Singers – An Elder presented a group of 12-15 dedicated male youth with a big drum. This group meets every Wednesday for 3 hours to receive teachings about drum etiquette and learn songs. The group’s first public appearance was singing at the Agency’s high school graduation event.
- Nipi Manitou (Water Spirit) Young Women’s Group – This group of young women are in the high school age range and a few are about to age out of care, and have attended monthly weekend cultural retreats where they participate in land-based and cultural activities (beading, painting, singing). A focus for this group deals with self-esteem and self-care, and they have been learning about social justice and advocacy, and attended the Red Rising Magazine’s recent Two-Spirited Issue Launch held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
- Indigenous Doula Cultural Support – SECFS partners with Indigenous Doulas so that pregnant youth-in-care and family case mothers can access culturally-appropriate holistic pre-natal, labour, and post-natal support. So far 3 expectant mothers have accessed a doula to support them through their births. With this care, the young moms receive cultural support not only for themselves but also for their child before birth.
- Cultural Support Team – The Cultural Coordinator has established a team consisting of 20 different elders and culturally-appropriate therapeutic service providers who teach, lead, and support the CICs through the cultural programming and activities. This team has extensive and diverse experience in working with addictions, unresolved trauma, gang involvement, sexual exploitation and self-harm who work well together. They are committed and support the CICs any time of the day, including providing intervention on at least 17 occasions where the CICs were in crisis.
- Lunch and Learn Cultural Sessions – The Cultural Coordinator has been delivering elective lunch time training sessions for SECFS staff to further their understanding of Anishinaabe worldview and contemporary Indigenous issues. The events are held twice monthly and are always full. Topics include: Identity and Cultural Attachment; Anishinaabe Spirituality and Ceremonies; Anishinaabe Medicines; Anishinaabe Rites of Passage; and, Traditional Parenting.