This past Wednesday, two ladies teamed up with Sheridan College's Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support to combat bullying and indigenous suicide. Kyle and Gillian (pictured above) were selling pink anti-bullying t-shirts in Sheridan's B-wing on behalf of Oneida Circle, a non-profit organization aimed to inspire, educate, and empower indigenous youth.
Over in the SCAET wing, Donna Keuhl, founder and CEO of Oneida Circle, and her daughter-in-law, Samantha Nodwell, were selling t-shirts, cupcakes, bracelets, and other merchandise to benefit the organization.
"[Donna] decided to call it Oneida Circle because she is from Six Nations, and one of the six circles is the Oneida nation," said Nodwell, Oneida Circle's executive assistant. "All the proceeds from today are going to our programming for the kids."
"Indigenous suicide rates are something like three times that of non-indigenous people," said Gillian, who works in Sheridan's Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support. "We need to do something about this."
A 2008-10 study done by the First Nations Information Governance Centre found that 22% of First Nations adults reported contemplating suicide, in comparison to 9% of non-aboriginal adults.
Graph source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/suicide-among-canada-s-first-nations-key-numbers-1.2854899
Keuhl and Nodwell hope that the efforts of Oneida Circle will help reduce the potential of suicidal feelings developing in indigenous youth.
"Indigenous suicide rates are very high. From opening Oneida circle, what we hope to do is give these kids that don’t feel like they have an outlet, an outlet," Nodwell said, "[We hope] that the suicide rate, depression, and self harm and all that goes down in general."
Banner from Oneida Circle's website.
The pink t-shirts being sold were inspired by national Pink Shirt Day, an annual anti-bullying campaign started by two Nova Scotia high school students. After witnessing a grade nine student being bullied for wearing a pink t-shirt to school, David Shepherd and Travis Price purchased 50 pink shirts from local thrift stores and handed them out to students at school the next day.
Pink Shirt Day is now recognized at schools all across Canada.
Informational poster set up at the Oneida Circle table.
Oneida Circle was founded by Donna Keuhl after surviving abuse and bullying as a child. Surviving this abuse inspired Keuhl to "pay it forward" and help children in similar positions. Oneida Circle offers workshops for indigenous youth on self-esteem and confidence building, anti-bullying, suicide education and awareness, fashion, creative arts, music, and mentoring.
The organization also runs a campaign called Jewel's Cause, which was named after a young girl named Jewel who died of suicide after falling victim to bullying. Jewel's Cause provides youth with graduation and prom attire and accessories to ensure that young people look their best on special days.
Oneida Circle also offers scholarships to youth who participate in their various programs.
To learn more about Oneida Circle and how you can help, click the button below.