Welcome Home Circle

"Returning to the good path"

“The Welcome Home Project believes in the power of transformation and having access to resources that contribute to one’s personal growth, so that they may enter the sacred circle of their families. 

The vision is to build strong relationships with self, family, and community in order to effectively contribute to the wellness of our nation and our people.”

• Jonel Beauvais •

a group of formerly incarcerated community members of Akwesasne, who are passionate and committed to working at providing support for those re-entering back into their families and the community. We are driven by our personal experiences, inspired by our children and called to create change for community members coming home from institutions, to have a reliable, safe place to live and receive cultural supports by their peers.

We believe in the power of transformation and having access to resources that contribute to one’s personal growth so that they may enter the sacred circle of their families with the support of those who understand them best. The vision is to build strong relationships with self, family and community in order to effectively contribute to the wellness of our Nation and its people.

We encompass the knowledge and wisdom of the medicine wheel, offering guidance (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually), so that we may see them prosper and fulfill their purpose as they become contributing members of our society. Those of us who left know that there is no greater feeling than being accepted and welcomed home. That is the gift we wish to keep on giving.

Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates
Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates
Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates

from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 2013, I fortunately had my aunts U.S. residence to have a safe place to live. I know that they loved and cared about me, but I also knew that I had become an extra dependent to their already five-person household. They always encouraged me and gave me the support that I needed. I appreciate them for taking me in and giving me a safe place to live, this could have absolutely changed the course of where I might have ended up.

I was vulnerable in transitioning from an institution to society, having to adjust mentally, emotionally and physically. Especially as an indigenous woman, the holes of poverty, addiction and violence are deep and vast. I fortunately had some family support! Vital to most individuals to achieve goals, acquire ambition and confidence. There were many community members welcoming me home, pulling in the driveway just to see if I needed anything. There was a ceremony amongst women in the community who greeted me and gave me the opportunity to be a part of other places of solution and healing. This was exactly what helped me generate my vision and commitment for the community.

This is a natural blueprint to what others should receive and have access to. The struggles were tremendous as I'm sure you could imagine if I took everything from you today and told you to start from the bottom years down the road, how overwhelming that would feel. And not only that but you’re not even entirely yourself, because you’ve been institutionalized, molded to believe you are a number (not human), untrust-worthy and dangerous. I don’t even know where to start with relationships, other than nobody suffers more for these situations than children. There are very few resources or visibility for children grieving an incarcerated loved one. And yet we are still being locked up faster and longer than other non-indigenous people. • Jonel Beauvais

The history of our community being criminalized goes back to the beginning of European contact. It has repeated itself many times over in every generation in many different ways and as along as our families are divided so will be our nations. The prison system works to extinguish true transformational justice and profit off of the suffering of people. It is based in taking power and not giving it. In fact, the design of the institution makes it easy to lose hope and begin to die on the inside, which is why spirituality must play a big part in the survival of the prison experience. A person does not miraculously change if you lock them in a room for an extended period of time, nor does it mean that they have taken accountability, and let's not assume that every person who enters prison is guilty.

This level of response to our community members has never been done! We will literally will be changing how the coming generation will be able to inherit another form of community care that so greatly affects our people. So let's make our mark in history! Let's show up for all those who have little to no support and for the families that silently suffer. There is no good reason why our community members can easily have access to a jail cell and not have access in getting the help that they need to get out of it.

No programs exist currently that specifically dedicates its time and attention to those being released, assisting families with their loss or even during the incarceration process. When a person is extracted from their family and community, it is very much equivalent to a loss, a death in the home, because that person is no longer there. We know how greatly our community is affected by tragedy, we often lose them to accidents, suicide, drinking, drugs, violence and to the prison system.

Nobody is going to save us and nobody is trying to clean our community up more than us! Yes! Our generations are trying to live long enough to be the service providers these families, this community, our people deserve. I hold myself responsible to make something of my experience, my pain, my mistakes and my strength because of it. This is how we win the war! This is the power and medicine that has kept us here this long.  We have a long way to go. But we also have an opportunity to build capacity with directly and indirectly impacted community members, we hold a moral obligation to create a “family” of supports, allies and resources so they may find pathways to healing and increase the potential of wellness and purpose for their life experiences.

Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates

Learning how to lean into conflict and bring closure to harm is ideally what we all need in order to move forward with more clarity and vision. We need to at least have the courage to try, because if nothing changes, nothing changes. We cannot afford to continue to throw our family members away for mistakes that don’t represent who they are but where they might have ended up due to lack of healing, generational trauma, poverty, addiction from adversities, unhealthy families and toxic community culture.

To make a tax-deductible donation that will support this community initiative, please contact Strong Roots Charitable Foundation Administrator Chessie Thomas by calling (315) 296-3920 or The Welcome Home Project Representative Jonel Beauvais at (315) 705-5277.

Donations can also be made online at www.strongroot.org.

In comments, notate Welcome Home Project.

Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates, jonel beauvais

Starting with 4 Tiny Homes for U.S portion of the community we would ideally would like to continue to expand to have cites on both the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada (2 tiny homes in each province), when opportunity for land becomes available and we have the funding to purchase and develop.

Establish a circle of advisors to assist us in resources and guidance.

For the community member to receive the “Welcome Home Ceremony”, being greeted by the circle members, advisory board, community and their family. We follow traditional protocol and give thanks to creation, go around with words of encouragement, give the recipient an opportunity to share, share a song of medicine for them. We go around and give them a hand shake or a hug and then head into the sweat lodge for cleansing, when the lodge is complete we then close up the ceremony.

We would like to implement suggested motivational videos or content to keep them focused and inspired.

The Welcome Home Circle at the moment is primarily made up of men which is very valuable with the opportunity for them to create a healthy “brotherhood”, where they get to interact through cultural ceremonies (sweatlodges, singing practices, pipe ceremonies, fire keeping, singing at funerals and attending our longhouse ceremonies). This is all by choice and we are not here to dictate religion or belief but to support in cultural ways of wellness.

Guide them through shared personal experiences, offer support through setbacks and practice cultural teachings, also a prime opportunity to educate on DV, SA and setting a moral standard of respect for self, family and the community.

See them get established and be able to self-sustaining, we will continue to nourish the relationships built and add one more “Brother” or “Sister” to the circle of supports for future tiny home residents.

Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates, jonel beauvais

Federal and State authorities are very strict when it comes to implementing their rules over post- release conditions which is why we prioritized the need on the U.S portion first! This is where the least number of services are specific to post release and possibly the highest rate of incarceration is. Basic shelter is vital. Having a safe and secure place to come home to is necessary if we wish to build trust, connection and growth. To feel secure in the midst of so much uncertainty can be the greatest blessing and the biggest motivator. If people can be greeted with encouragement rather than shame, we are already winning the battle of what people might believe about themselves and what they believe about their community.

Housing is the #1 issue when it comes to re-entry! Often there is active addiction happening within the home or nearby. Families are not always supported in knowing how to receive a family member after incarceration and family conflict can easily arise especially if the family is emotionally unsupported and financially things are strained. Or there is just no place to live and then they are denied early release, possibly placed in shelters or having to stay somewhere unstable and last minute which just prolongs the transitional/healing process. Establishing these Tiny Homes fills a huge gap in services within the community, pillars of support are still very much needed. Often not having a healthier environment indefinitely leads to violation in their conditions, thus adding to the recidivism back into the system.

We have discussed a 6 to 12 month stay for each applicant. And meeting rent commitments would be standardized at the rate in which them applying for community assistance would grant, which is around $350 a month. If they are not eligible for whatever reason for public assistance, we would generate some outlets for community volunteering and engagement. We will also be directing them to utilize the employment resources already established within the community. Partial payment of rent fees will go to the occupation and maintenance of the property, while the rest will be put into a fund for future developments of the Welcome Home Circle.

Those coming home also come with gifts and talents that they inherently possess. They may be great speakers, writers, artists, teachers, developers or extra visibility for people to see the possibilities of transformation. More men need to see more men making it! More women need to see more women making it! Children need to see us show support and compassion so that it won't be so difficult to give when trying to understand how human people really. We can't justify the things people have done but we can put in the effort to understand and find common ground.

We know that land is difficult to come by in Akwesasne, thankfully Pray Lazore, who is a member of our group has property located at 95 Snye Rd, Hogansburg N.Y. 13655, which we will be utilizing for this initiative. Pray is also a formerly incarcerated community member who had been working the last couple years in addressing addiction through the Partridge House and now working with Seven Dancers Coalition men's program “Standing the Trees Back Up”, assisting men in the community with peer-support and cultural teachings.  There are already two homes on the property, one is occupied and has been already utilized for this exact purpose for the past 2 yrs, this residence has already seen 5 individual during that time. The other is vacant due to needed renovations and possibly some structural issues.

  • There is enough room to fit four Tiny Homes on the site. Amish charged us $4,800 for a 12x26 with small porch and insulated windows and door.
  • Each home would need all interior renovations done, bathroom, bed and small kitchenette area.
  • Would need to get a larger septic system installed.
  • fencing for the property because we have goals to produce a farm/community garden for them to generate and maintain, this would help keep unwanted animals out and keep future animals in. Also adds a feeling of security for the residents. Ideally just a 4ft high mesh fence would suffice.
  • Small slab foundation poured for each home
  • Solar panels are the way we wish to go when it comes to providing energy to the tiny homes.
  • Ceremonial firepit
  • Swing set and a slide for those who may have their children visiting
  • We are looking for in-kind donations of services as well as financial contributions.
Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates, jonel beauvais
Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates

Welcome Home Circle

This initiative is also based in my experience in the network of community programs, their services and their limitations in services. We have the full support of Micaelee Horn, Coordinator of the Healing to Wellness Court for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Court, along with Rena Smoke, Manager of the Akwesasne Community Justice Program through the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. There are several programs in the community who would be able to both utilize and provide resources to the Welcome Home Circle. I am also fortunate enough to have the full support of Stephanie Autumn, Executive Director/Co-Founder of the American Indian Prison Project in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Along with the organizations of Community Change in Washington D.C. through the Women’s Fellowship with the leadership of Aida Cuadrado Bozzo, the Women Transcendingfellowship with Columbia University with the leadership of Cheryl Wilkins and Kathy Boudin and the Center for Justice Innovations also out of New York City as a grant board member, with the leadership of Director Aleah Bacquie Vaughn.

Strong Roots Charitable Foundation Partners with the Welcome Home Project

“AKWESASNE MOHAWK TERRITORY — The Strong Roots Charitable Foundation and The Welcome Home Project are pleased to announce a new community initiative that will directly support the transition of returning community members from incarceration by providing resources which include safe housing and strength based peer support. The collaborative forces of these two community organizations is rooted in creating an Akwesasne community led, trauma informed response to those returning home. The partnership will help individuals released from incarceration have access to affordable, single-person living units, along with community support, resources and encouragement to acclimate their way back to their families and society.”

To make a tax-deductible donation that will support this community initiative, please contact Strong Roots Charitable Foundation Administrator Chessie Thomas by calling (315) 296-3920 or The Welcome Home Project Representative Jonel Beauvais at (315) 705-5277.

Donations can also be made online at www.strongroot.org.

In comments, notate Welcome Home Project.

The influence of this kind of community response is pretty exciting. There is lots of new ground to make and creating not only a better path for our community members to succeed, but to exhibit what transformational justice looks like for this generation and the ones coming. Setting precedence and innovation is what our people have always represented. A parent mending the guilt they carry for being gone is healing, a child's face when they see their parents happy is joy. Showing people, they still have so much more to live for helps them put worth in their decisions, which helps fight the internal battle. With every tragedy our community endures it affects us all. We have a very small window of opportunity to reach people before drugs, before alcohol, before they don’t feel like living anymore. A common root cause of these is shame. Helping people heal, helps families heal. That’s the cycle we want to incite, that’s the history our children should inherit. All great leaders have experienced darkness, for they cannot become the leaders needed if they do not know how to lead people out of that darkness. We have to tap into this type of potential because there is nothing more powerful than family members putting purpose behind their pain and creating a new narrative for their lives. This is always going to speak to the true heart of this community and what community stands for! I feel we could easily impact a hundred community members or more within the first 2 yrs of us up and running. It's just a new experience we get to create, a new reality, a new way of being with one another... and that’s just the kind of change we’ve been waiting for.

Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates

Welcome Home Circle

Jonel currently support Kahwatsiraien:ton families of Ohero:kon. She has dedicated six years as a council member and Lead Auntie for all adolescent girls entering their first year of fasting in Ohero:kon “Under the Husk”, which is the Rights of Passage for youth in Akwesasne.

Jonel has spent five years cultivating support and experience around violence with the Seven Dancers Coalition as Community outreach.

In 2019 she was selected for Community Change Organization cultivating change in the hearts of women directly impacted by social violence, prison systems and immigration.

Welcome Home Circle, Akwesasne, restorative justice, tiny homes, tiny homes for inmates, jonel beauvais

Jonel Beauvais

is Wolf Clan, Mohawk. Proud mother of three and chosen auntie to many.

Jonel works diligently to empower and induce healing within all Native/Indigenous communities in order to prosper in the Haudenosaunee teachings of good medicine and good minds.

Jonel is a member of the Section 84 parole board of Akwesasne and the New Kanikonriio Council, a restorative justice initiative that integrates Indigenous ways of mediation to reduce incarceration and provide more interpersonal means of healing for all parties.

Inspired by her own carceral experience and the undeniable need for representation and support for those directly and indirectly impacted by the criminal system in Native communities, Jonel has founded the 'Tiny Home Project".


Chad served nine and a half years in Federal prison and was released in September of 2017.

He is a recipient of the Welcome Home Ceremony where he was greeted and encouraged to walk a good path by several Indigenous women from several communities. He is a traditional singer at heart, artist and good friend. Mr. Edwards attends funerals within community to share songs of healing and medicine for the spirit to start their journey and bring comfort to the bereaved family.

pray lazore, founder

Chad Edwards

 is Wolf Clan, he grew up on the Onondaga Nation terrritory and now lives in the Mohawk community of Akwesasne. .

During his incarceration Chad learned the teachings and songs of our pipes and sweatlodge ceremony, he continues to offer those ways of healing when called on to do so. His craftsmanship leads to drawing, etching glass, and making our traditional drums, rattles, feather fans and Kastowas (feather hat) worn by men in the community to show representation of their stature, clan and nation. Chad’s integrity is rooted in showing up and helping out and we are fortunate to have him home building with us.


Pray is family oriented and takes pride in his own family as well as his community. Pray currently works for Seven Dancers Coalition as a Community Outreach Worker and takes part in bringing awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence within the community.

Pray facilitates programming for both men and male youth in the Sapling to Cedar youth program and Standing the Trees Back Up men’s program.

Pray takes pride in our Mohawk culture and strongly uses our cultural teachings throughout his programming such as Haudenosaunee ceremonial teachings, songs and dances, traditional craftsmanship, sweat-lodge practices and healing talking circles.

chad edwards, founder

Karatoten (Pray) Thomas Lazore

is Deer Clan from Akwesasne.

Pray is a formerly incarcerated community member who has sought out ways to keep himself from repeated incarceration. Pray shares what he has learned with the men and male youth for both personal and community gain; enabling himself and others to continue to walk a good path throughout life.

Pray uses his own personal trauma and experiences as a way to teach men and male youth. His work guides others from the wrong path to the good path and instills understanding and confidence that they too, can walk a good path.

Tho niiohtónhak ne sewa'nikòn:ra


Meet our Bro Raun “Moonjabi” Mitchell, who is Snipe Clan from Akwesasne.

Mr. Mitchell is a father, son and brother to many. Currently responsible for his community outreach role with Seven Dancers Coalition to bring awareness and prevention on SA and DV, he is also diligently working to empower the men in the community through one on one meetings and his infamous Talking Circles!

He is also a formerly incarcerated community member, a proud attendee of the rooms for recovery from addiction and has taken his sobreity to new heights with his commitment to community.

Raun-Moonjabi-Michell, founder

Raun " Moonjabi" Mitchell

is Snipe Clan from Akwesasne.

Always willing to help out where he’s needed, Raun has a wonderful spirit of appreciation for people and believes in showing up for the youth so they may have the encouragement needed to move through some of their obstacles with healthier male support.

His charisma and healthy sense of humor will leave you with a sense of his big heart and we appreciate all the growth and challenges he has been through so he may now lead with knowledge and experience.

Establishing TINY HOMES fills a gap in community services.