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Grassroots Indigenous Organization Celebrates 50th Anniversary

September 8, 2022

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Neyashiinigming, ON, August 30, 2022 – Since 1972, Ontario Native Welfare Administrator’s Association (ONWAA) has been enhancing social services in First Nations. The organization is proudly celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. 

In 1965, an agreement was made between Canada and the Ontario government for income assistance within First Nations- with no consultation from First Nations themselves. This one-size-fits-all approach did little to consider the unique factors of delivering welfare (as it was then called) to the diverse First Nation communities.  

After its introduction, Kay Taylor, who was the income assistance administrator for Curve Lake First Nation, listened to what her peers were saying: She saw the need for an organization that would be First Nation membership driven, owned, and directed, that would work to solve these challenges. 

In 1972, Taylor and two other First Nation income assistance administrators founded ONWAA. The organization worked to collaboratively find solutions for social service delivery in First Nations, share best practices, and peer-support amongst administrators.  

Today, ONWAA continues these practices as well as creating eLearning courses, facilitating professional development workshops, and policy analysis. Where there is a gap in data or current knowledge, ONWAA conducts its own research to gain valuable insights from community members who have first-hand experience and perspectives on complex issues. These papers are published for communities, service providers, and governments to better understand the answers needed to move forward with solutions. 

“The organization has grown tremendously in the past 15 years” says ONWAA Executive Director, Jessica Nadjiwon-Smith. “But at the end of the day, the biggest and most important thing is that it started as a grassroots organization. The goal of the organization is to ensure that clients in our income assistance sites and First Nations have the services they require.” 
What started with a handful of people, ONWAA is now comprised of 129 members in Ontario and delivers training in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Quebec. Though there is still much more work to be done, the organization is proud of its accomplishments over the past 50 years. ONWAA continues to look forward to working with social service providers to better the lives of individuals and families within First Nation communities. 

ONWAA will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary at the Chelsea in Toronto on Wednesday October 5th, 2022, in the evening. To watch a video on the history of the organization, follow the link: "Where We Came From, Toward Where We Are Going" - Celebrating ONWAA's 50th Anniversary

ONWAA is committed to providing services to First Nation social service administrators in Ontario. The membership is comprised of social service administrators commissioned to administer social services in Ontario.  
Please direct any media inquiries to Lauren McClure:  [email protected], 705.989.5506.