Over the summer of 2020 during a global pandemic, a small group of professionals got together over Zoom to discuss offering services to Indigenous communities across Canada. Initially the group got together as a sort of ad hoc group ruminating about a shared traumatic experience to debrief. What made this particular experience interesting is that it occurred while working in an Indigenous educational cultural center. You have to admire the courage it took for them to come forward in an environment that was laden with lateral violence and oppression.
Why this is significant to the initial founding group, is because lateral violence in indigenous communities happens and no one talks about it openly. This group of professionals are attempting to make sense of a senseless episode.
At the same time, when you look at the history of indigenous peoples it is understandable that this occurred. There have been many reports and studies completed on the history of indigenous peoples in particular the colonization and oppression that occurred when institutions were created to control and manage the Indian problem. RCAP, Truth and Reconciliation, Missing and Murdered women, and the Gladue Case, to name a few.
of Trauma is not what happened (the event) it is how the individual reacted to the event which creates trauma, the trauma occurs at the point of the explanation. Essentially what we tell ourselves after experiencing an uncomfortable incident, whether it is, sexual, physical, or mental abuse. For example, when is something that happened to a child, the child may form an unhealthy belief, that they are not good enough, and may even believe that something is wrong with them, no one loves them and they unlovable, especially if the event was perpetrated by a person, parent guardian who is supposed to love and protect them. Often, they believe they can’t go to anyone to relate the experience to. This can be disempowerment and hopelessness.
For contexts, we need to briefly explain why it is so easy for indigenous people to get to that point. Entirely simple is they have experienced intergenerational trauma already for generations.
It began with European first contact with indigenous communities in 1763 with the Norse explorers and Settlers. Prior to being “discovered” Indigenous communities lived in self-governed groups harmoniously and related with other tribes using a sophisticated system of governance based on respect and reciprocity and natural law.
Briefly, indigenous groups where used as allies in times of conflict. As the word spread in Europe by returning explorers that there was a wealth of resources in the new country, an economy in the fur trade commenced. It didn’t take long for the Europeans to want to assimilate indigenous people and to control them. And they created an elaborate system to accomplish their objective.
Beginning with the creation of reserve systems in order to take control of the massive land and resources on the lands, next came residential schools and the Indian act. These systems were effective because within it came oppression the end result indigenous peoples were colonized.
This was the beginning of trauma for indigenous peoples experienced effectively through cultural genocide. Once the hunting and trapping, fishing livelihood had been wiped out, and a dependency on alcohol was introduced along with welfare. I remind you; trauma is created when we try to understand what happened and can’t. In this instance, residential schools, the Indian act, and the effects of alcohol loss of culture and language created the first generation of trauma in the indigenous group. No one would believe the horrific and inhumane affliction to the wards of the government was taking place.
Which brings us back to the initial group who to debriefed on an shared experience they had within an institution where all intent and purpose they should have felt safe and empowered unfortunately that was not what happened. Understandably based on the historical nature of the trauma that indigenous peoples experienced collectively it is no wonder they felt hopeless and helpless. Furthermore, this also explains why lateral violence often occurs in Indigenous communities and institutions. In order to take their power back, they decided to design an institution to address addictions and trauma in the indigenous communities across Canada because a collective trauma that had been experienced for generations.
Our desire was to create an addiction training institution based on a new model of Compassionate inquiry into trauma and the link of intergenerational trauma and our response to it. After serval founding zoom meetings, a foundation was created with a bold Vision. Our mission, simply, is the eradication of all addictions in all 600 First Nation communities, including the integration of the root causes of addictions.
The goal of the foundation is to be of service to Indigenous peoples. In particular, because Indigenous peoples have been traumatized for generations. The model applied is a compassionate inquiry approach. Our primary goal is to build capacity in communities which will empower the community by providing the tools necessary to address and recognize the intergenerational trauma. Furthermore, it is to build within this system a process of checks and balances to prevent lateral violence from taking hold because we understand until there is and understanding of trauma it will occur because that’s what happens to a person that has experienced trauma. It is important to identify the source of the trauma, accepted and address it.
Achieve the following:
Seventh Generation Indigenous Foundation & Training (GIFT) is a Foundation created to promote healing opportunities for Indigenous peoples in Indigenous communities throughout Canada. We do this by delivering curriculum grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
Our trauma-based addiction training program is woven with traditional knowledge, which is distinct, authentic and has core values and teachings passed down from our ancestors. GIFT adheres to the Indigenous principles of the Seven Sacred Teachings of Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility, and Truth.
We do not label or follow a western perspective, looking at addictions as a disease, or mental health as a diagnosis. We are understanding, non-judgmental, supportive, compassionate, and accept people for who they are.
We understand that Indigenous people are impacted by their experiences related to intergenerational trauma and as a result to our traumatic experiences, addictions and mental health issues become secondary factors.
We also believe everyone has the desire as well as capacity to heal, and we encourage and support healing. Seventh Generation Indigenous Foundation & Training (GIFT) provides hope and a healthy balanced Indigenous world view perspective for Indigenous people to speak their truth and creates space for community healing for our children, grandchildren, and future generations.