The Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin program—or “I Am a Kind Man” program—is a new initiative being offered by the United Native Friendship Centre here to work with men who are abusive to their partners.
Buddy Loyie, who was hired about a month ago as the Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin worker, understands the problem of men’s violence and abuse against women in aboriginal communities.
“The abuse against women is epidemic,” he stressed. “A lot of the murdered, missing aboriginal women [were] running away from their homes.
“They are running away because they are being abused and they are meeting more abusive people when they get on the streets.”
Loyie noted it’s something that needs to change because women are the heart of the community.
“And in communities, women are living with very abusive men,” he remarked.
“Much of the violence against women comes from men who grew up in homes of violence, abuse, neglect, and not being loved and cared for when they were children.”
Loyie said men who have been abused become abusers because they have not learned how to deal with their pain and anger.
When he was small boy growing up in northern Alberta, Loyie thought abuse was normal.
“People walked around with black eyes, they put tourniquets on their arms because they were kicked and their arm was broken,” he recalled.
“But it was as if nothing happened the night before.
“In our home when these nights of violence would happen, the dishes would be all over the floor, cups were thrown through the windows, and the next morning they would just sweep it up and not a word would be said.
Loyie said the rage inside the men has nothing to do with what the women do or say.
“They could be saints and they’d still be getting lickin’s,” he reasoned. “The men are just looking for anything to blame a woman for their own inadequacies, their own pain, and their own hurt.”
He recalled many years ago, Couchiching brought healers to the community to provide training, which Loyie took part in.
“People who had suffered from abuse and violence brought their pain to the workshops and they talked openly about what happened to them,” he noted.
“The stories were heartbreaking but yet they came through.
“And we were there, keeping the bundle of pain inside us and we never mentioned a word of it,” he added.
But after seeing that, Loyie knew that’s what he had to do.
“I had to say the things that happened to me,” he remarked, noting he spent 12 years in residential schools so he carried a lot of pain and rage from that time.
“I just never dealt with it,” he conceded. “I didn’t want to talk about it.
“But you can’t bury those things,” Loyie stressed. “It’s not possible. They come out in the way you treat your family.
“So I learned then that we have to let that poison go, let that hatred go, let that anger go, let that pain go, let that rage go.”
That’s why Loyie got involved in the Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin program—to help other men release their anger and stop violence against women.
He noted while the program is offered throughout the province, each worker, at their individual centres, develops their own program according to the strengths and needs of the community.
But the intent is the same. The overall purpose is to engage the men of the communities to speak out against all forms of abuse towards aboriginal women.
Some of the other goals include:
- to provide education for men to address issues of abuse against women;
- to re-establish traditional responsibilities by acknowledging that our teachings have never tolerated violence and abuse towards women;
- to inspire men to engage other men to get involved and stop the abuse; and
- to support aboriginal men who choose not to use violence.
In order to achieve these goals, Loyie is developing elements of the program, including sweat lodge ceremonies.
“Lots of times that pain and anger is released in ceremonies,” he explained, adding he already has attended sweat lodges offered by the Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services.
If anyone wants to meet with or be with Loyie in that capacity, they are welcome to join in.
He will work in healing circles and individual counselling sessions. Elements of the program also will include learning about medicines, learning meaning and purpose of traditional spiritual songs, and working with youth.
“I will start talking with them about the issues they are facing in a non-threatening way,” Loyie explained. “The youth are going to be dads one day and already they are being abusive.”
Loyie also will attend courthouse sessions to meet men charged with abuse, and show them a more traditional way of relating to their partners and to learn a kinder way of living.
He even wants to introduce elements of language learning as a means to introduce traditional knowledge.
“I feel that the more we introduce elements of Anishnabemowin culture, we are introducing people to traditional knowledge,” he reasoned.
While the program is taking shape, Loyie understands it’s hard to get to the place where they are ready to release the pain, rage, and anger.
“But you help them to allow them to bring that poison that is in their system out in what ever way you can do that,” he remarked.
“You use whatever tools you have and whatever you can do, you try to do that.”
Loyie plans to make presentations to reserve communities to get the word out about the program, as well as to area schools.
People are welcome to contact Loyie at 274-8541 if they would like to know more about the program.
“One day at a time, one person at a time,” he said.
“We’re just making small steps to let them know we are prepared to help.”