Family Violence Initiative



Healthy Relationships: Women

Program name:

Grandmother's Lodge – Wharncliffe Retreat & Learning Centre


Grandmother's Lodge/Anishinabe Culture


Thessalon, Ontario

Target Group:


Contact Name:

Ellie Graham






Program Overview

The Lodge has continued to run over the past 20 years even though it has not always had funding. Grandmothers bought the lodge with their own savings, and other grandmothers have come together to led programs and activities at the Lodge. At the site, there is a cabin, and a barn, with most of the work being done outdoors around sacred fire. There are usually a minimum of ten women at the Lodge but many more during the summer. The women are able to camp there.

Program Description
Goals & Objectives:

To provide healing and wellness through traditional education and healing in a retreat setting in a rural/remote region. Women are assisted to let go of body memories, negative emotions, and mental and physical traumas, including those caused by violence and abuse.

Traditional/Indigenous ways:

The Lodge provides a unique Aanishanaabeg experience rooted in the original instructions of the culture. The ethics of the program are rooted in Indigenous women's ceremonies emphasizing the importance of relationships, preservation, sharing, cooperation, collective consciousness, mutuality and reciprocity. The teachings provide guidance in the development of a relationship with one's self, with others, and with all of creation. The four aspects of the self (spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual) are acknowledged to be of equal importance to achieving well being.

Components of program:

Grandmothers work with women who have been physically beaten. They prepare cedar baths, use medicines to assist healing, use teachings to address self-esteem and remind them of their connection to Mother Earth and Sky Father. Re-birth experience and ceremony is provided to help clients reclaim an understanding of the sacredness of life. The Grandmothers also provide mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing support. There are several four day programs that emphasize learning about women's traditional teachings; a professional development training for front line staff; a wilderness camping retreat designed to get back in touch with the land; as well as a session designed to teach one how to manage stress. There is also a two day workshop on alternative methods of conflict resolution. Other aspects of the program are designed to integrate ceremonies and healing practices with the aim of reconnecting the individual to their own sense of self as well as helping clients to once again find their own voice. Such activities would include, but not be limited to, full moon ceremonies, sweat lodge ceremonies, prayer days for Mother Earth, and counselling provided to assist with grief and sexual abuse. In addition to this, the Lodge is networked with other agencies that can provide services as needed upon request.

Services/How they work:

The programs take place onsite at the Lodge and in the wilderness but also taken off site to other communities and organizations.


Ontario Women's Directorate; the Department of the Status of Women Canada. The sister charitable organization is Neegoni Wabun Gi Gay Win. At present, the Lodge does not have any funding.

Relationships and Stakeholders
Involvement of Target Groups:

Through ongoing involvement with the community; the women in the community get involved by word of mouth – "Mocassin telegraph". Young women were mentored and they are helping to spread the word. Also working with a PhD student to write a book (Moon Time Prayer) as a way to spread the messages.


Grandmother's Lodge is a grassroots organization

Other relationships:

The Lodge works with Health Access Centres where cedar baths are done, at the Nipissing First Nations, where there is a massage table. Consultation is provided at these centres as well as other First Nation Health Centres.

Details of Program Evaluation

An evaluation has been completed.

Highlights of Evaluation Findings:

The report was not made available publicly, and no specific results can be provided.

Program Outcomes
Measures of Success:

Ongoing use of the Lodge over the past seven years and the drumming over the past twenty years is considered success as well as the stories told by women


The program's ability to keep the Lodge functioning with involvement of many grandmothers. There is a lot more awareness of the Lodge that has been generated. Being able to offer a number of different programs.


Obtaining funding. Not having ongoing funding to support property maintenance and upkeep (mortgage, insurance, utilities, telephone) and upgrading and replacing equipment (lawnmowers, brush cutters). The program also needs funding for outreach (travel to communities, to visit grandmothers to mentor) and marketing of the Lodge and its programs. They require training and human resources to support development of proposals and to meet the requirements by funders.

Things to Know to Replicate
Replication Advice:

The program is considered replicable. Interested Indigenous grandmothers need to be mentored and trained.


Need funding for property, caretaker, maintenance, upkeep, outreach, marketing, and staff to support ongoing resource identification and capacity development.