It is well known fact that Indigenous women in Ontario experience higher rates of violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts. The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) in alliance with the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) have been working together for decades in the movement to end violence against Indigenous Women and Girls. In partnership, these two organizations examined violence from the perspective of Indigenous women to gain a better understand their circumstances and lived experiences.
The Breaking Free, Breaking Through project was a shining example of work outside the typical hierarchical mainstream researcher-participant relationship.
Through a combination of culturally appropriate research methodologies along with culturally relevant arts-based therapy, the project identified the important role of a spirit of resilience and strength within families and communities. Our findings also highlight the importance of creating spaces where Indigenous women can build relationships, practice their culture(s) and share experiences. It was found that breaking through violence does not happen at a specific moment, but is a pattern that shifts and changes shape. Resilience does not occur when risk and protective factors even themselves out – there is no one linear continuum of resilience. Indigenous women’s resilience occurs in the patterns of shared experiences. It is always about relationships to others: people, things, cultures, communities, and histories. Indigenous women’s resilience is “in the doing”, in practicing culture: women’s relationships are what constitute their resilience.