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Knowledge of Inuvik Elders Used for Mental Health

The Inuvik Indigenous Band has been working for some time to implement a new mental health program that puts traditional Indigenous knowledge at the forefront. The development of the program, which will have required a long preparatory work, should officially start in October.

Karine Lavoie – Local Journalism Initiative – APF – Territories

It will now be possible for members of the Inuvik community to go and talk to elders who will use their traditional knowledge to help them. This way of obtaining psychological support is proving to be very interesting for a population still dragging, to this day, the psychological consequences of past trials.

Developed by the Inuvik Native Band, the mental health program is part of the mission of the organization which wishes to offer its population services aimed at improving their quality of life.

Among other things, it was able to take shape thanks to several funding sources, including a donation of $ 4000 under the program. Field Law Community Fund, as well as a $ 30,000 grant from the Healthy Choices Fund from the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).

“The initial setting up of the cultural camp space is a direct result of the funds received,” said Edward Wright, director of the Inuvik Native Band. “We used approximately $ 15,000 of the GNWT’s $ 30,000 allocation to purchase the tents we needed, and we also used funds from our own fundraising efforts to complete the physical development of the area. of the site. “

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Seniors: central element of the program

The transmission of knowledge by elders is a concept known and recognized in several communities. “This is a central idea of ​​healing processes that First Nations strongly believe in as opposed to westernized concepts of healing,” says Edward Wright.

The sessions, which will take place individually in a traditional gathering space behind the Band office, will be conducive to discussion. “Like all traditional knowledge, much is transmitted orally and through memory,” adds the director.

Seniors participating in the program will not be compensated in cash, but rather with food from community hunts, for example. “We use this compensatory approach so as not to create future hardship for seniors who have meager fixed pension income and who would have their pensions reduced if they were paid in cash,” he explains.

Wounds from the past still present

The fact of not wanting to use westernized services such as those of a psychologist or a social worker testifies to a heavy past among the First Nations. “Many of our members are uncomfortable in this area because of the abuse and lingering memories of residential schools that many of us still have,” says Wright.

Indigenous peoples feel more confident in discussing and taking sound advice and direction from their own elders. “The transfer of knowledge from the elders is much, much more appreciated by the members of the First Nations rather than having to talk about past traumas, substance dependencies, abusive behavior to people who still represent to this day those who have inflicted ill-treatment, ”he said.

More specialized help when needed

Although the elders are an excellent support for people wishing to obtain help, the Inuvik Native Band nevertheless wishes to be able to rely on other people if necessary.

“The next steps are to engage with one or two people, outside of our members, who are clinically trained and who can provide advice in specific cases, as we are not sure that each individual will have issues that are easily addressed. resolve and we don’t know if the available Elders will have an acceptable way or willingness to actively engage with the member, ”concludes Wright.