The Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society (LAWS) is a non-profit, charitable, community-based, aboriginal organization providing social development services to the Kaska Nation in the Yukon and northern British Columbia. The organization was established and registered in the Yukon as a non-profit society in 1998. The Society is served by a six member Board of Directors, an Executive Director, and an Administrative Assistant. Offices of the Society are located in Watson Lake, Yukon.
Mainstay programs offered by the society include: a restorative healing program responding to the needs of Residential School survivors and those suffering intergenerational effects; and, a gender-based empowerment program intended to restore the traditional role of women in the stewardship of family, community and the Kaska Nation.
The Society is recognized for its ability to sustain ‘trail breaking’ social development programming in a complex social environment that includes intercultural and political resistance, gender and racial discrimination, cultural displacement, and significant psycho-social impediments including addictions and lateral violence.
Restorative Healing Program:
The Kaska Project, Guni's Tsi Nedzedundeli', meaning ‘Let's go back to the land.’ is named for its intent -- the cultural and spiritual restoration of the Kaska people. The Project, funded by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), is in its tenth year of operation, with the goal of addressing the legacy of sexual and physical abuse in residential schools through a series of sub-programs, relevant to residential school survivor and intergenerational impacts. The project includes five sub-programs: Community Development/Outreach Training; Family Psychotherapy (based on a resiliency model); Traditional Spiritual Healing; A Kaska Language and Traditions Program; and, Kaska Summer Camp.
Gender-based Empowerment Program:
The Hearing Our Voices project is woven around the desire of Kaska women to participate in and have a meaningful influence on the development of a national constitution. This on-going initiative, funded by Status of Women Canada, Canadian Heritage, and the Gordon Foundation engages Kaska Women in the development of public policy at a critical juncture in the evolution of self-governance within the Kaska Nation in Northern BC and the Yukon. The initiative provides a forum for Kaska women to participate and assume roles of leadership in the constitutional developmental process of the Kaska Nation through public consultations within the five Kaska communities. The primary objectives of this initiative are to increase public awareness by informing public debate of women’s key concerns regarding governance, and to achieve an informed consensus among Kaska women regarding the Kaska National constitution. The initiative provides meaningful opportunities for Kaska women to shape research, gain critical skills and experience, and enhance their overall capacity to take more active and visible leadership and advocacy in their communities. The desire of Kaska women in respect to constitutional development is representative of the desire to reclaim the place of women in family and community, and is part of a much larger struggle to remember and reclaim the ground on which women once stood and walked.
Development Strengths and Role Factors;
The success of the programming offered by LAWS is due to a number of strengths:
Organizational Stability – the organization has been able to maintain a consistent direction and presence in the community over the long term despite significant resistance.
Sound Financial Management – the organization has been able to attract significant long term and short term funds and has demonstrated a consistent level of responsible management over them.
Effective Program Management – Program evaluations show a consistent pattern of success, with reporting meeting the requirements of all funding providers.
Appropriate Program Design – Programs are designed to meet grass roots needs, and are developmental, using each program as a foundation for the next. (i.e. the Restorative Healing Program is the foundation for the Gender-based Empowerment Program).
Blended Resources – The organization places the land, culture and traditional process at the center of its programming, but utilizes proven therapies and support structures from the western paradigm to achieve some of its objectives. Selected non-traditional therapies and support structures are compatible with traditional values and process, and consistent with the overall direction and flow of programming.
Empowerment Principles – The progression of the empowerment process is based on the principle that power is never completely extinguished. The process of empowerment begins with the personal discovery of resiliency as a spark, and uses a variety of traditional and non-traditional processes to work through the layering of personal wounds and revive a personal sense of power. With the revival a personal sense of power, the process moves on to reclaiming place.