Land based healing project needs coordinator

Rosaline Tait setting the fish net in the summer. Photo courtesy Sara Mai Chitty. 

Kasabonika Lake News
Tyance Anderson
February 24, 2017

When Rosaline Tait is out on the land it’s just her and the wilderness.

“Being here in the community, associating with other people, and then when you’re out there doing stuff, you forget about the stuff that people do here in the community,” said Tait. “You don’t have time to think about what people are doing.”

She has been part of the Suboxone Detox Program since July 2016 to help her quit an opioid addiction. While the suboxone helps, it’s getting out on the land that really helps her heal.

“I feel great – it’s really awesome being out there.”
The first time she went out fishing with the detox coordinator was October 2014.

“It took a while to learn how to fish net, taking out fish from the net and setting up the net too.”

Bringing home fish for her family gave her a sense of pride. She also likes the feeling of contributing to the community. They give what they catch to anyone in the community that needs it.

“It made me feel good, really good,” she said.

A need for culturally appropriate activities at the community level, such as fish netting, is recognized by the Nishnawbe – Aski Nation in response to the Declaration of Health and Public Health emergency. Because of this, NAN is funding a new pilot project in Kasabonika Lake for land based healing, and is hiring a coordinator to make the project happen.

Land Base Healing comes from the knowledge that many of the issues Indigenous people face stem from intergenerational trauma.

One of the the things we have lost is our traditional values as a result of moving to the current settlement,” says Health Coordinator Terry Stoney. “And also lost a lot of our traditional medicine that our Elders used before. Like how to prepare it, store it and how to administer it.”

Part of the Land Based Healing plan would see traditional healers brought into the community to take people out on the land. Healers would teach participants to identify and harvest different medicinal plants and things used for tea.

“When someone’s out on the land there’s healing involved,” says Stoney.

Other activities include hunting, fishing, trapping, snaring, beading and other traditional crafts.

It’s about teaching young people about the traditional activities our Elders did in the past.”

Another thing that they’re trying to focus on is preserving the language.
“As everyone knows, barely any of the youth speak it, or even understand it,” explained Stoney. “It’s something we need to preserve in our young people.”

In 1990, the Assembly of First Nations Education Secretariat gathered to discuss linguistic justice for First Nations and established the “Principles for Revitalization of First Nations Languages.” They determined that ”language is our unique relationship to the Creator, our attitudes, beliefs, values, and fundamental notions of what is truth. Our languages are the cornerstone of who we are as a People. Without our languages, our cultures cannot survive.”

Language and culture was disrupted in Kasabonika by residential schools, convicted pedophile Ralph Rowe and the forced relocation from the Old Settlement to where Kasabonika is now, explained Stoney.

There’s a lot of impact that has happened in our community and among our people due to the intergenerational trauma,” he said. “We certainly have lost a lot of our traditional ways and our values, even our parenting skills are lost, because our parents were removed from their families at a young age to Residential Schools.”

As a result of this trauma, the community is battling widespread addiction and a breakdown in values.

“That’s one of the things that our Chief, Eno H. Anderson keeps bringing up is the focus on healing, the focus on the underlying causes of our members, and of our community as a whole as well,” says Stoney.

“At the same time the goal is for our young people to learn how to survive out on the land, through the land-based healing pilot project.”

This makes sense to Tait, who finds activities such as fish netting, or partridge hunting, a great way to not stress about her problems, or other people.

“Walking around in the bush and just thinking about the partridge only and nothing else, it’s a really good feeling,” explained Tait. “Being out there, you’re free.”

What would a Land Based Healing Coordinator do?

“We need a coordinator to look after, set up workshops, and to coordinate the activities that will be done out on the land, and to get all of those traditional medicine healers, to coordinate their travel, and the local Elders here. To take the supplies and set up beadwork as well, things like that. And also set up like a craft night or something, and do crafts.” – Terry Stoney 

Feature photo by Juliet Anderson 


One comment

  1. I would like to see this just north of Toronto to deal with the south first nations youth I was looking at a place just north of barrie but nobody will help Frontiers Foundation of Toronto with money I have the people that could run programs in music and canoe building traditional work shops sweats teaching circles even work with people with PTSD


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