COMMUNITY NETWORK: Weekend wellness event connects Indigenous with resources

Culture can be a medicine for Aboriginal people, as columnist Ginna Berg explains ahead of Saturday

By Ginna Berg/Special to The News

On the long nights of winter, we find ways to take care of ourselves.

Just as comfort food can make us feel better, so can connecting to culture.

Fraser River Indigenous Society is an Indigenous organization providing services and programs for our community to acknowledge our past, present, and future generations.

We do so with culture at the centre. We do so because we know that culture is healing and medicine.

As part of our commitment to this practice, Fraser River Indigenous Society is hosting our annual Winter Wellness Event on Saturday, Feb. 29, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Golden Ears United Church.

We feel that having an integrated approach to wellness means having service providers share resources, as well as gathering around traditional teachings, hearing the heartbeat of the pow wow drum, and getting active and learning our traditional dances.

We will be gathering and sharing our traditional knowledge and supporting interaction with treatment activities and doing it all with ceremony.

Supported by the First Nations Health Authority, the Winter Wellness Event promotes taking a holistic view of health including the spiritual and emotional aspects along with the physical and mental aspects. This holistic view includes a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

We can’t start to talk about healing without understanding the hurt.

Recently the Community Network, the Seniors Network, and the Stop Overdose Ridge Meadows Community Action Team held a trauma and mental health townhall meeting at the ACT featuring a presentation by Metis clinical counsellor Jennifer Mervyn.

The townhall brought information to the public about trauma and the impact of trauma on mental health and well being.

Mervyn’s work outlines the connections between ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), mental health, and how these topics impact health and resiliency for families, individuals, and our community.

Much has come to light on the impacts of individual and community harms of colonization, past and present.

The harms were endured through oppressive structures such as the reserve system, Indian residential and day schools, as well as the forced removal of children through adoption understood as the 1960s scoop. Centuries of these colonial policies and practices aimed at eliminating cultural identity have led to severe trauma, passed through the generations.

A study in 2006, by Sotero, found the legacy of physical, psychological, and economic disparities are transmitted through the generations.

It is this removal of culture we now aim to address.

The disruption of intergenerational trauma will require approaches which focussing on everything that was taken; language resurgence, as well as re-establishing pride and a sense of individual and collective identity.

Working with a culture as – treatment approach.

In 2011, the Fraser River All Nations Aboriginal Society was formed to answer the needs of the Urban First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (Indigenous) peoples of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Now called Fraser River Indigenous Society, we are here to serve urban Indigenous peoples and to foster a sense of belonging and provide a culturally safe space for people to connect and celebrate their Indigenous heritage.

Fraser River Indigenous Society provides front-line assistance, and cultural workshops – such as making medicine pouches, talking sticks, and learning beading techniques. These programs emphasize the importance of culture as the way to promote long-term stability and success.

Persons with Indigenous heritage are regularly experience stigma, a feeling of being disconnected from their communities and heritage, and the results of inter-generational trauma from decades of colonial subjugation and negative residential school experiences.

It is important for programs to foster participant empowerment.

Empowerment occurs when clients realize that they can have an impact on their own well being and health.

It also happens when we can put people in touch with services available to them and seek out those services. For many community service providers, what we do is who we are.

– Ginna Berg is executive director of the Fraser River Indigenous Society


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