Our mission is to provide programs and services for Indigenous children, youth, families and community that are rooted in culture and language.
Our vision is to provide high quality, wholistic programs and supports that foster Indigenous identity formation and a sense of belonging. The 13 Moons and the 4 seasons are the foundation for Indigenous Pedagogy that is embedded in all program areas.
Niwasa began its journey as an organization with the Aboriginal Head Start Program.The Aboriginal Head Start Initiative (AHS) made its debut in Canada as a promise outlined in the Liberal Party’s Red Book “Creating Opportunity” launched in September 19, 1993. A commitment was made and then confirmed in the January 18, 1994 Speech from the Throne. During 1994, Aboriginal community consultations took place in 25 cities across Canada, involving 300 Aboriginal organizations, and 400 discussion papers were also distributed to Aboriginal organizations across Canada.
AHS was developed primarily on the information gathered from the cross Canada consultations, as well as child development research, including research and evaluations of the American Indian Head Start Program.
The 4-year pilot phase of AHS in Urban Centres and large Northern communities was announced by the Minister of Health Canada on May 29th, 1995 with a national budget of $87.3mil. This holistic education program for Aboriginal preschoolers and their families had six mandatory program components as follows;
- Parental involvement
- Culture and language
- Health Promotion
- Social support
These components were designed to help give children positive self-esteem, a desire for lifelong-learning and the opportunity to develop to their full potential as young people and throughout their lives.
In 1997, Hamilton was chosen as one of the locations for the AHS program. A steering committee comprised of Indigenous parents, community members and Indigenous organizations began to develop a plan to operationalize the project. In 1998, Niwasa Head Start opened its doors to families with two classrooms that embedded the Mohawk and Ojibwe language and cultures. In 1999, Niwasa Head Start Preschool became incorporated.
In 2003, Niwasa began a partnership with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to deliver the NYAWEH program. Native Youth Advancement with Education Hamilton was funded for 3 years by the Hamilton Community Foundation. The NYAWEH program would be located in secondary schools and provide social, cultural and academic support to students to improve credit accumulation, graduation rates and access to post secondary education. The project was so successful that it expanded to 4 public schools and 1 Catholic secondary school in Hamilton.
In 2006, Hamilton was chosen as a Best Start Demonstration site. This provided an opportunity for Niwasa to expand services to include a full day Indigenous licensed child care program. At the same time, Niwasa opened a child and family centre in two locations, one in a local recreation centre in central Hamilton and the second in the Mc Queston neighbourhood. The child and family centres are places for parents, caregivers and children to drop in and access early learning activities, parent information sessions and …….
In 2016, the NYAWEH Elementary project was funded through the ABACUS granting stream with the Hamilton Community Foundation. The NYAWEH Elementary project engages students in grades 6-8 with a wholistic programming within an inclusive Indigenous educational framework that supports transition to secondary school and explores pathways to post secondary education.
Through the leadership of the Niwasa Board of Directors’, the organization has seen tremendous growth. In 2016, Niwasa began a rebranding and marketing strategy to better represent the programs and services offered by the organization. Part of the process included engaging children, youth and families that access the program in the renaming of the organization. Legal name change was submitted in 2016 to Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg.