Family Violence Initiative



Residential Schools Healing

Program name:

Embracing Our Human-ness


Healing Drum Society


Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Target Group:

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who have been impacted by the residential school experience.

Contact Name:

Joe Pintarics



Email: or



Program Overview

The program started in 2003. The program is still running as originally designed (as of January 2012 when this review was done). The program has funding until December 2013.

Program Description
Goals & Objectives:

To assist with the healing of people who have been impacted by the physical, sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual trauma resulting from residential school experiences.

Traditional/Indigenous ways:

There are daily prayer and cleansing ceremonies during the program, and at meetings. There is sacred drumming and singing in the circles. Sacred talking circles are held regularly. Elders assist with teaching and counselling program participants and they also provide direction and ongoing support to the program staff. When the program is running in a community, local Elders are employed to provide direction, support and counselling. Traditional methods of healing are taught in the program. Participants also learn about traditional family and community relationships and rites of passage. They participate in local traditional ceremonies, such as fire ceremonies and drum dances. The program is moving toward pan-indigenous concepts which incorporate southern Aboriginal traditions and northern Dene traditions.

Components of program:

The program is mobile in nature, responding to the request of communities to come and provide its services. The program is a 4 week psycho-educational group program and the goal of the program is to encourage residential school survivors to share and express their feelings about the trauma they have suffered. The program focuses these sessions on survivorship, vicarious trauma and trans-generational trauma. There is an intensive intake process before the program starts. The program follows up with the clients at 3, 6 and 12 month intervals after the initial 4 week session. The Healing Drum Society has a total staff of 13. There are 6 program facilitators on contract; 2 facilitators are needed for each program. There are also 3 full time counsellors on staff who assist with the program follow up and also do ongoing individual counselling with trauma survivors.

Services/How they work:

Services are brought to the communities participating in the program.


Aboriginal Healing Foundation; the Department of Health Canada; and the Healing Drum Society.

Relationships and Stakeholders
Involvement of Target Groups:

Women on the Board of Directors are part of the planning process. They represent their communities on the Board. Some of the program Elders, facilitators and counsellors are women. The marketing and administrative staff are women.


First Nations, Métis, Inuit organizations and Aurora College.

Other relationships:

Women's groups and government bodies who ask us for assistance.

Details of Program Evaluation

No evaluation has been completed.

Highlights of Evaluation Findings:


Program Outcomes
Measures of Success:

Success is measured based on participant feedback and recording of follow ups with clients who have completed the program.


By end of fiscal year, the facility will have completed its 40th "Embracing Our Human-ness" community program.


The services are seen as being a 'one size fits all' model. Some communities want to alter the program and staff works with them to come up with a model that meets their particular needs, while remaining true to the overall goal of healing from residential school trauma.

Things to Know to Replicate
Replication Advice:

This program can be replicated elsewhere. It is transportable to any community. The program should be directed, supported and sponsored by a governing body, such as a board of directors or a First Nation government. It is also important that the local First Nation, Inuit or Métis organization knows about, and supports, the program when it is present in their community. Program sponsors, such as a college or women's organization, also need to fully understand the program and support the program staff and participants. Follow up, and available ongoing counselling, with program participants, after the program is over, is imperative. Facilitators, staff and Elders need opportunities to de-brief and de-stress after delivering a program. They also need opportunities to deal with their own issues, attend training and maintain mutual support.


People would need a budget to hire 2 facilitators for each 4 week program. They would need money for follow up with participants after the program. They would need accommodation and travel for facilitators and Elders (if no local Elders are available). It would be necessary to rent a space if there is no free space available. Some money would have to be available for marketing the program effectively.