Community Intervention & Holistic Healing Models What does ‘healing’ mean for the Indigenous people in the contemporary context of Canada? Faruk Arslan & Zinnet Jaffar
The Contemporary Context • How can indigenous communities regenerate themselves socially, culturally & politically so as to resist the effects of contemporary colonial incursions on their sovereign rights? • As Taiaiake Alfred and Jeff Corntassel (2005) ask in their article entitled Being Indigenous: Resurgences against Contemporary Colonialism “How can we resist further dispossession and disconnection when the effects of colonial assaults on our own existences are so pronounced and still so present in the lives of all Indigenous peoples?”
What is a “Status Indian”? • Officially recognized categories: • Inuit, Status-Indian, Non-Status Indian, First Nations, Metis • Indian Act and the bureaucratic construction of identity • Enfranchisement and its implicitly discriminatory schemes • Bill C-31 (race based membership criteria reinstated) • Consequence: Clashes, structural divisions
Kevin Annet: VOICES of the Canadian Holocausthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=88k2imkGIFA#! • “Aboriginal Conditions” • Is the expression itself racist? • Four explanations to account for differences between aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups (Satzewich & Liodakis, p. 191) • Sociobiology • Culture • Structure • History
Key Issues • The key ideology • “Kill the Indian in him and let the man live” • Aboriginal way of life seen as failure, leading to extinction • Solution: Separate children from families and “re-educate,” with the hope that they would merge with the mass of Canadians • The key ‘technology’ of power • Discipline: the individual mind and body is seen as the site of a pedagogical intervention, based on a rigorous religious discipline and forms of physical and emotional punishment
Main Traumas • The outsider perspectives barely mention colonizer crimes such as genocide, racism, discrimination and the crime against humanity. • Mercantile colonialism, Christian missionary work and modernity • Mother-based thinking replaced to patriarchy • Need to rewrite the Canadian history, silence one, recognize First Nations
Aboriginal Deprivation & Poverty • They see the label of ‘aboriginal’ as a form of silent surrender by “suppressed” nations to an inherently unjust relationship at the root of the existing colonial “constitutional” state (Bellamy, 2003). • This is a context in which Indigenous peoples are forced by the compelling needs of physical survival to cooperate individually and collectively with the state authorities, ignoring all other needs.
The Dual Identity of Aboriginals • There are those who identify themselves solely by their political-legal relationship to the state rather than by any cultural or social ties to their community. • This continuing colonial process pulls Indigenous people away from cultural practices that foster cohesion & purpose in a community life that is autonomous while ‘being Indigenous’ (Alfred, 2005). • This refers to being rooted in a balanced way in their personal, social & political lives based on an equity in health and life chances with the rest of the ‘settler’ population.
Residential Schools http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CReISnQDbBE
Sexual Assaults and a Colonial Legacy • 50,000 children died in residential schools through Canada between 1800-1900s at the hands of Catholic, Anglican, and United officials with the help and aid of the Canadian government. Stephen Harper has apologized to the first nation people in 2008. • Debate: Potential huge payday coming for lawyer Tony Merchant
Reconciliation Thoughts • Reconciliation might be seen as continuing to strip Aboriginal people of their separate conceptions of political identity. (Rymhs, 2006, p. 120). • Historically and repedeatly, “colonial legacies and contemporary practices of disconnection, dependency and dispossession have effectively confined Indigenous identities to state-sanctioned legal and political definitional approaches” (Taiaiake, Jeff, 2005, pp. 600, 601). • Put in more practical terms: how much does the process of reconciliation help those who have been unjustly treated?
Key Values • Land as a Non-Commodity • Aboriginal concepts of land as a bundle of relationships rather than a commodity • ‘These mountains had names’ (countering the settler narrative) • Spiritual properties of place: ways of knowing, living and relating to each other • “How do you explain a philosophy that goes against the grain of everything?”
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 2006 • Recognition of an Aboriginal order of government with authority over matters related to thegood government and welfare of Aboriginal peoples and their territories. • • Replacement of the federal Department of Indian Affairs with two departments, one to implement a new relationship with Aboriginal nations and one to provide services for non-self-governing communities.
Is Reconciliation’s Function Strictly Performative? • Creation of an Aboriginal Parliament. • Initiatives to address social, education, health, and housing needs, including the training of10,000 health professionals over a 10-year period, the establishment of an Aboriginal peoples’ university, and recognition of Aboriginal nations’ authority over child welfare (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996). • 2007 Official Settlement and Reconciliation
The Indian Medicine Wheel Four Aspects Of a Circle With a Balancing Centre of Harmony & Inter- connectedness
Disconnection, Dispossession & Dependency • Living with identities (and sometimes lands & cultures) that have been reconstructed by the postcolonial state & society can lead to a process of being disconnected, becoming dispossessed culturally & materially, and of being rendered dependent on the very state that has unleashed these forces (Nietschmann,1995). • The Indigenous often feel disconnected in their relationships to each other, communities, homelands, ceremonial life, languages & histories. Such connections are crucial to living a meaningful life for any human being.
Dividing & Conquering • The political-legal ‘compartmentalization’ of community values through an artificially created Indigenous space or ‘reserves’ often leads Indigenous nations to mimic the practices of the dominant non-Indigenous legal-political institutions. • Such ‘divide & conquer’ tactics by the state, and apparent adherence to state-sanctioned definitions of Indigenous identity result in a ‘politics of distraction’, diverting energies away from decolonizing and regenerating communities (Hingangaroa Smith, 2000). • It also frames community relationships in state-centric terms, as Aboriginal ‘issues’ that occur in a separate reality, not in relation to their own cultural ethos.
Group Exercise • 1) Representatives of a government advisory group on Aboriginal affairs • 2) Representatives of an All-Church coalition in addressing such matters as the publicity created by Kevin Arnett • 3) Representatives of the United Aboriginal Alliance for Justice and Development • 4) A Panel of Social Workers fighting Against Privilege & for Social Justice & Restoration of Economic Rights
What does Decolonization involve? • “..involves profound transformations of the self, community, and governance structures [and] can only be engaged through active withdrawal of consent and resistance to structures of psychic and social domination... a historical and collective process” Mohanty, 2003, p. 7) • It means striving to replace the doctrines of individualism and predatory capitalism with the sense of unity and concerted effort in the face of ongoing stripping of their landed assets. [In Canada, the British Columbia Treaty Process has been structured to achieve the legalization of the settler society's occupation of un-ceded and non-treaty lands that make up 90% of the territory in that province, which means that the Indigenous people would have to ‘surrender their Aboriginal title to the Crown, whereupon it becomes vested in the province’.
What kind of Interventions are needed? • To a large extent, institutional approaches to making meaningful change in the lives of Indigenous people have not led to any form of decolonization and regeneration. • In fact, they have further embedded Indigenous people in the colonial institutions they set out to challenge. • This is because they attempt to reconstitute ‘strong nations’ largely on the foundations of a de-energized, dispirited and de-cultured people.
A shift from the colonized self in the direction of freedom • Indigenous pathway to recovery & healing may have to start with the individual. • The self will then radiate this outwards to family, clan, community & other larger processes. • In this way, Indigenousness is reconstructed, reshaped and actively lived by internal forces rather than ‘borrowed’ or co-opted through well-meaning outsiders. • New patterns of thought & action will guide the ever-expanding movement towards a more authentic Indigenous reality that is self-propelled.
The ‘Mantras’ of a resurgent Indigenous Movement (derived from Alfred & Corntassel, 2005) • Land is Life– our people must reconnect with the terrain and geography of their heritage to comprehend the teachings and values of the ancestors, to draw strength and sustenance independently of the colonial power, and which is regenerative of an authentic, autonomous Indigenous existence. • Language is Power– our people must recover ways of knowing and relating from outside the mental and ideational framework of colonialism by regenerating themselves in aconceptual universe formed through Indigenous languages.
What Freedom entails • Freedom is the Other Side of Fear– our people must transcend the controlling power of the many and varied fears that colonial powers use to dominate and manipulate us into complacency and cooperation with its authorities. The way to do this is to confront our fears head-on through spiritually grounded action; it is the only way to break the chains that bind us to our colonial existences. [As Alfred & Corntassel (2005) remind us, “we live in an era of postmodern imperialism and manipulations by shape-shifting colonial powers; the instruments of domination are evolving and inventing new methods to erase Indigenous histories and senses of place”. Examples: Creating a bogus ‘we are you’ agenda, calling for a vote to legitimize occupation, referring to state camps as ‘economic development’ and ‘new communities’, and offering amnesty to resistant military leaders and their forces in order to co-opt their movements.]
Reconstituting lost capacities • Decolonize your Diet– our people must regain the self-sufficient capacity to provide our own food, clothing, shelter and medicines. Ultimately important to the struggle for freedom is the reconstitution of our own sick and weakened physical bodies and community relationships accomplished through a return to the natural sources of food and the active, hard-working, physical lives lived by our ancestors. [ In The Fourth World (p. 60,1974) Manuel and Posluns explain: “The colonial system is always a way of gaining control over another people for the sake of what the colonial power has determined to be ‘the common good.’ People can only become convinced of the common good when their own capacity to imagine ways in which they can govern themselves has been destroyed.]
Pathways to change • Change Happens one Warrior at a Time– our people must reconstitute the mentoring and ‘learning–teaching’ relationships that foster real and meaningful humandevelopment and community solidarity. • The movement toward decolonization and regeneration will emanate from transformations achieved by directly-guided experience in small, personal, groups and one-on-one mentoring towards a new path. [This would involve erasing the distortions, the disfiguring & the devaluing of the pre-colonial history, as proposed by Frantz Fanon in his “The Wretched of the Earth”, 1963, p.210]
What do other Models of Intervention teach us? • Scholars of ‘native’ literature avoid topics such as land ownership, law & governance, and focus instead on power relations at the level of colonization, sexism & other institutions (Fagan, 2004). • Others cast ‘Aboriginal’ people in a state of victimization, even while calling upon their communities to "heal" despite poverty, differences in education & a hostile criminal justice system (Rymhs,2006). • In 1998, after the government apology over the Residential Schools’ tragic legacy, a $350 million fund was earmarked to establish an Aboriginal Healing Foundation for community-based projects to treat residential schools healing initiatives.
Holistic Community Interventions • Native American recovery movements rose from the prophetic visions of their leaders. • These visions portrayed alcohol as a weapon of cultural conquest and sobriety as a strategy of cultural resistance. • In 2007, a U of WA’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute and the Alaskan Suquamish Tribe collaborated to create an integrated model to treat substance abuse & cultural identity issues among the youth in a fully participatory 3-year research-plus-intervention project, using the CBPR/TPR holistic methodology. • It undertook to build on community strengths & resources and incorporate traditions & beliefs & leadership of the community.
Healing Of the Canoe: The Community Pulling Together... http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=rweiwpeNu_M&NR=1
A new model of Partnership • This project promised to develop culturally-appropriate, respectful & sensitive research & healing strategies so as to foster community engagement and ownership at every step of the process. • Community Advisory Council provided oversight & guidance by inclusion of ‘cultural facilitators’ in focus groups & in inputs by members at every forum to identify concerns, resources & the wisdom in traditional mechanisms. • Community stakeholders were interviewed to identify key issues & resources to plan & implement co-research and intervention in a mutual skill-sharing style. • A 12-week Life Skills curriculum based on Tribal values, customs & practices was piloted for addressing youth identity issues & sense of belonging in the Suquamish Summer school.
The Canoe Metaphor • Community knowledge that went into creating the Life-Skills curriculumintervention identified the ‘healing’ life-journey metaphor for the youth’s recovery & treatment of alcohol & substance abuse. • The symbolic healing journey provided the time for reflection and building the resolve to overcome despair & build a collective identity in renewing old bonds & develop new skills. • The tribal journey is an annual event that is drug & alcohol free & based on ancestral traditions. • Intensive practice in traditional songs, dances & training is undergone to learn thecultural protocol necessary for the canoe family to appropriately conduct their long journey, as a metaphor for skills for a clean and sober journey in life. • These involve learning navigational coping skills, communication andlifestyle balance skills, and skills to cope withnegative emotional statesthat might otherwise prompt some teens to give up on the journey that initiates a meaningful life & cultural resilience.
Life Journey as a Tool for Healing old wounds & new? • Successful implementation of the CBPR approach requires a forthright acknowledgement of a history of a well-earned lack of trust and the gains made at the expense of tribal peoples. • Can this tool or ‘best practice’ provide a bridge to a new alliance between conscious & committed practitioners and the victims of past injustices? • The Team from the U of WA (ADAI) led by Lisa R Thomas, with members from the Suquamish Wellness Program and the Healing of the Canoe Project of the Suquamish Tribe, tried to create a respectful, collaborative effort, incorporating a flexible and reflexive style. • Understanding that communities are not sterile laboratories, but “rather are process oriented, and we are “along for the ride.” (Thomas, L R, Donovan, D M, Sigo, R L W, Austin, L, Marlatt & The Suquamish Tribe, 2009, p. 295). • The ability thus “to be patient and trust the pace set by the tribe, while still maintaining a pace consistent with grant requirements, can be a difficult balance for traditional researchers” (ibid, p. 295). • To what extent were the alternative ideals that are transformative of the traditional experience met by this project?
Critical Issues that need answering… • How do you respect and honor tribal sovereignty while adhering to grant expectations? • When is research not research? Where is the boundary between “research” and participatory community involvement, information sharing, and project presence? • Who is a “subject” in the context of participatory research in the community? • How do you define and insure confidentialityin small, relatively closed communities? • How do you define “data” and who owns the data (e.g., narratives)? • How do you manage “findings” that may cast the community in a negative light (to settler nation’s institutions & public)? • Lastly, can the CBPR/TPR model using the canoe healing metaphormake a positive impact in reducing health disparities and promoting good health in the Indigenous communities? • A work in progress…?
Conclusion • As Deena Rymhs (2006) has pointed out: One of the questions that lingers after all the attempts to heal violence, substance abuse & suicidethroughgrass-root interventions among the indigenous communities, or in the efforts to reconcile & heal the wounds from the colonial past by ‘settler’ nations at the public level, is whether or not these can mobilize more than just anemotionalresponse from its non-indigenous audience—whether or not they can move beyond the mere recognition of racism, by initiating substantive political reorganization and intervention. • Symbolic transformations of the minds & hearts have had their day!
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