The Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre has a rich history which includes reestablishing our traditions and culture. For decades, Indigenous people were restricted in practicing our ways and performing our ceremonies, which lead to many of our people to lose this knowledge. The Fort Erie Friendship Centre aims to correct this by helping our communities to heal and reclaim their identity. This movement began in the late 1970s with our founders who originally created the Fort Erie Native Social Club, a satellite to the Niagara Regional Native Centre, to provide a place where our people could get together and hang out away from the ignorance, judgments and racism that they faced daily during that time in history.
In 1983 The Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre became incorporated as a non-profit organization and was located at 303 Niagara Boulevard. This is when we were able to receive core funding which made the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre the first completely funded satellite Friendship Centre in Canada. Over the next 7 years we provided programs to help community members with their reading and writing skills, employment, family services and they also provided a number of youth based programs such as “the lil’ beavers” and a youth program that was well attended. There were additional Indigenous organizations that began during this time as well such as Ganawagah Urban Homes and Niagara’s Chapter of Native Women.
As our community grew and more services were needed we began looking for a larger property were we could expand and create a place for everyone in our community to enjoy. In 1988 the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre moved to our current location at 796 Buffalo Road. Here we have been able to progress steadily. Since moving to the Buffalo Road location we have built a gymnasium for our social and sporting events, an Indigenous based Daycare (Under the Rainbow), an Indigenous based pre-school (Aboriginal Head start), a separate building for teaching Literacy Skills and now we are currently in beginning stages of building a Children’s Native Friendship Centre. Our programs and services are now expanded throughout the life cycle from conception to end of life.
Since our establishment our focus and goals have remained the same which is “To Enhance all Aspects of Native Life While Extending Friendship to the Community.”. No one person in our organization takes the credit for all of our success as we work “Together for a Stronger Tomorrow.”. With our values of Tradition, Friendship, Respect, Professionalism, Compassion, Integrity and Honesty we will continue to move forward with helping our community to not only heal but to allow its members to prosper, becoming the persons who they were meant to be.