Bent Arrow’s Kinship Care Program: A Pathway

Today we wanted to share with you in more detail every step and aspect of the Nitotemak Kinship Care Program. This pathway follows the steps that a child goes through while in Kinship Care; how the child succeeds and thrives with the help of the Kinship Care worker and their Kinship Caregiver. 

Several cultural elements were incorporated into this map, including teepees which signify resources and supports available to the child and family, medicine wheels that highlight sacred practices and ceremonies, grandfather rock which can be found along the path and symbolizes connection to our ancestors, and the 7 Sacred Teachings which appear as text on the arms and legs of the turtle, and as animal icons on the path near images where that quality is observed. The overall layout of the map represents Turtle Island and is a reminder of cultural identity and deep connection to the earth. 
We start in the center of the map with the Awasis, as the child grows and develops in the mother’s womb and prepares to enter the world. A sunburst, representing the life force and energy of the Awasis emanates from the family tree. The tree informs of the child’s lineage and represents the family’s deep connection to the land, with roots that reach deep into Mother Earth. The family tree also symbolizes the Sundance model, with the child and its biological parents at the center. The middle ring includes extended family members such as grandparents, siblings of the parents, and the child’s cousins. The outer circle represents members of the community. 
The bent arrow at the beginning of the path symbolizes a different upbringing and shows the direction of movement into and through the Nitotemak kinship program. As we travel along the path the first image that we see is a child sitting alone at the foot of her bed, unable to receive all the care that she needs.  

The following image shows a feast being shared by the family and extended family. 

The eagle can be seen on the path near this image symbolizing love; knowing this, one can understand why the last image shows the child at a blanket ceremony, where the child is presented with an Eagle feather and a star blanket.  

The teepee found on the path leading up to that image represents support from Bent Arrow, and the Sasquatch symbolizes the honesty that is required during this process. The medicine wheel reminds us that this is a sacred practice. 

In the next image we see the child being introduced to her kinship contact. 

Next, we see the child settling into their kinship home. 

Moving along the path we see the child testing boundaries in the kinship home. The wolf, symbolizing humility, can be found on the path approaching that image. 

Next, we see an in-home visit. We start most visits with smudging and make space for Practice as Ceremony. 

The following image represents various community support available to the child and family. 
In the next image the child is meeting with a counsellor. The teepee represents external supports, and the bear reminds us of the courage that is necessary in this situation. 

The Buffalo and Beaver can be found on the path near this image representing respect and wisdom. The teepee and medicine wheel are also present, representing external supports and sacred practices as an alternative to counselling, Elders often support families through trauma.  

The next image shows an Elder from the community making dream catchers with the mom, dad, caregivers, and child. This symbolizes how we connect children to Elders from their own communities, to learn our traditional teachings. 

The Beaver is also near this image which symbolizes wisdom. We see the caregiver meeting with the child’s teacher at a parent-teacher conference. 

The next image is smudging before a meeting. The turtle is present, representing truth, as well as the medicine wheel symbolizing a sacred practice. 

Finally, the pathway presents a Round Dance, where the child, biological parents, kinship caregivers and others come together to celebrate. The medicine wheel indicates that this is a sacred ceremony, and the Buffalo is nearby symbolizing respect for cultural identity and heritage. 

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