COMPENDIUM OF PROMISING PRACTICES TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AND INCREASE SAFETY OF ABORIGINAL WOMEN IN CANADA – COMPENDIUM ANNEX: DETAILED PRACTICE DESCRIPTIONS
Residential Schools Healing
- Program name:
Gwich'in Wellness Camp
Gwich'in Tribal Council
Inuvik, Northwest Territories
- Target Group:
Youth over 16 years of age, Gwich'in and Inuvialuit men, women and families that live in the Beaufort-Delta region.
- Contact Name:
Matilda Debastien, Director of Wellness Program
The Gwich'in Wellness Camp was completed in 2008. The official name for the camp is the Rachel Reindeer Wellness Camp. The Gwich'in Wellness Camp is located in the delta of the Mackenzie River. The camp was built on the eastern arm of the Mackenzie River (15 kilometres from Inuvik). The camp is accessible by boat in summer/fall and by skidoo, truck and bombardier in winter/spring months. There has been increasing use of the camp since its opening.
- Goals & Objectives:
To rebuild the confidence people have lost through the many traumatic experiences they, and their ancestors, have endured (including the traumatic legacy of residential schools); to educate families and encourage extended families to participate in the process of healing as a family unit; and to, impact rates of: suicide, family violence, incarceration, child apprehension, diabetes, mental illness and addictions.
- Traditional/Indigenous ways:
Gwich'in Elders are very much involved in all aspects of the camp programming. They provide guidance, set an example of behaviour to clients, and teach traditions. Youth and families learn about traditional skills and traditional healthy lifestyles.
- Components of program:
Camp sessions include: traditional Gwich'in and Inuvialuit practices (hunting, sewing, hand games, ceremonies, storytelling) to strengthen cultural identity and build bonds of trust; healing workshops (to deal with traumatic feelings/experiences and to develop the skills and capacity for healthy relationships); addictions focused healing; mentoring and guidance from Elders (who focus on the youth through sharing circles); workshops on recovery from residential school issues (including the loss of language and parenting skills, and the legacy of lateral violence which has resulted from residential schools). Youth and families learn about traditional skills and traditional healthy lifestyles. The following additional workshops were held in 2011: Intergenerational Survivors Workshop (the long term impacts of residential schools); Taking Back Your Power (focused on the healing needs of communities related to residential schools); Community Tour (work in conjunction with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to provide information on the Independent Assessment Process (IAP)); Truth and Reconciliation Commission Preparation Workshop (preparing Gwich'in people for participation in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings)
- Services/How they work:
Services are offered on the land at the camp site.
Funding is provided by the Gwich'in Land Claims Benefit Agreement, which includes revenues from oil and gas companies extracting resources on Gwich'in land.
Relationships and Stakeholders
- Involvement of Target Groups:
The Gwich'in Wellness Camp is supported by all communities in the Beaufort-Delta region. The Gwich'in Tribal Council, local service providers (such as the Inuvik Justice Committee), local schools, health care providers and Inuvialuit organizations support the camp and rent it for their own programs.
Inuvik Transition House Society; Inuvik Family Counselling; hospital based mental health and addictions services; local psychologists; and the NWT Government's Youth and Family Outreach Counsellor.
- Other relationships:
Details of Program Evaluation
No evaluation has been completed.
- Highlights of Evaluation Findings:
- Measures of Success:
Success is measured by rates of participation in the programs that are offered.
The Gwich'in Wellness Camp, though relatively new, has successfully completed numerous programs for youth, adults and families. This is particularly noteworthy given the daunting and complex weather and transportation logistics.
The biggest challenge has been travelling to the camp in difficult weather.
Things to Know to Replicate
- Replication Advice:
The program is considered replicable. The support of the Tribal Council, First Nation or Inuit/Métis organization is needed. The capital costs associated with building a large facility and the on-going funds to operate it are necessary.
Sufficient funding and qualified staffing are essential to successfully operating such a camp.
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