By Christine McLaren
Ball and George
Shedding light on the journey of Indigenous fathers was what Dr. Jessica Ball from the School of Child and Youth Care intended when she set out to research Aboriginal fathers’ relationship to their children. What surprised her was the number of fathers who volunteered to tell their story and share their joy of fatherhood.
“There was no shortage of fathers who wanted to be involved, which is very unusual for Aboriginal research,” says Ball. Her research and the resulting DVD “Fatherhood: Indigenous Men’s Journeys” is the first study of its kind in Canada.
Through interviews and footage of the dads interacting with their children in their own surroundings, six Canadian First Nations and Métis fathers, age 27 to 60, speak openly about everything from the challenge of overcoming colonialism and the resulting trauma of residential school to the joys of being a father.
Presenting positive images and actual stories from Aboriginal fathers who have been able to make it as dads were what the fathers wanted to see. Inspiring practitioners to find new ways to include fathers in child care decisions, programs and family services is what they hope to achieve.
“I want to use my education to support Aboriginal people and specifically fathers, who, due to forcible relocation off-reserve, feel the loss of culture, language, family and community support systems,”says Indigenous father Ron George (BSW ’06), currently working on his master’s in education. George, a hereditary chief of the Git’dum’den Clan and former president of the United Native Nations and Native Council of Canada, describes his children as “gifts.” “Their future is bright because, contrary to how I was raised, they know who they are, they know they have rights and they absolutely know they are loved,” says George.
Since the release of the DVD in March 2007, Ball has been inundated with requests and queries about the DVD and accompanying resource materials. With funding from the United Church Healing Fund, the DVD has been converted to broadcast quality for distribution to institutions such as Ryerson University, the University of Guelph and Camosun College. Workshop requests from the Aboriginal Head Start Program, Community Action Program for Children and the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program and her work with Success by Six, 2010 Legacies Now and LEAP BC (Literacy Education Activity and Play) highlight the significant contributions of her research.
Ball’s research on Indigenous fathers is supported by the Father Involvement Research Alliance (FIRA), funded through the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) and the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Ball’s internationally recognized work with Indigenous communities, development of training programs and research have been her focus for over 10 years.
For more information on the fatherhood project visit www.ecdip.org/fathers.