Healing decades of trauma: How one First Nation is finding peace by returning to the land of their ancestors

Healing decades of trauma: How one First Nation is finding peace by returning to the land of their ancestors

EDMONTON —
Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.

Indigenous leaders of Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation in Quebec have developed a holistic approach to healing generational trauma caused by residential schools.

Only accessible by boat or skidoo, a new healing centre aims to bring peace to elders, survivors, and those who have grown up witnessing the scars inflicted on their community by bringing them back to the land of their ancestors.

“There could be counselling, group therapy, even have elders come in for support, talking circles with fire,” Chief Tony Wawatie told CTV National News.

“We need to go back on the land to bring back strong identity for our people, the language, the land… and this right here is good way of healing.”

Leaders say the community, like many across the country, is struggling to cope with the intergenerational trauma caused by the residential schools many attended. Decades after being beaten, tortured, and sexually abused, survivors say they are still struggling to cope, combating addiction, poverty, and a lack of housing along the way.

“I don’t want to own it anymore. I don’t want to carry it anymore,” Rose Wawatie, a residential school survivor, told CTV National News.

“I want to give it back to those who brought this, Canadians, leaders, government and the Pope.”

For many, the recent discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., has compounded the pain.

“I almost became one of [those children], because I was in hospital for six months. I got run over by a tractor… they were able to shove that under the ground,” Saben Ratt, who was just six years old when he was taken from his family and enrolled in a residential school, told CTV National News, noting that his family was never notified of the incident.   

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If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.



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