Trauma and First Nations People

“There are a large number of First Nations and Inuit communities and individuals who have the capacity to cope effectively with crisis and to minimize the negative effects of trauma. These are the communities and people that we must learn from when attempting to understand trauma in indigenous communities. Without doing so we create the impression that the capacity to cope with trauma does not exist within indigenous communities and we fail to learn what we so desperately need to know…” (Connors, 2013).

The term “Aboriginal” includes Métis, Inuit and First Nations, regardless of where they live in Canada and regardless of whether they are “registered” under the Indian Act of Canada.

It is essential from a trauma informed perspective to have cultural competence regarding the traditions and practices of any specific culture. When working with First Nations having an understanding of their cultural practices is essential in promoting and understanding the healing process. Traditional healing practices are very localized and culturally specific. “There are 617 First Nations and 53 Inuit communities in Canada. As of the 2006 census over one million ‘Canadians’ identified themselves as Aboriginal. Within the First Nations there are more than 50 aboriginal languages. Among the Inuit population there are differences in language, beliefs and cultural practices across the northern territories. The Métis populations across Canada demonstrate similar diversity. Although there is a common perspective or holistic worldview that binds Indigenous populations together, there is also great diversity in languages, beliefs and cultural practices throughout the country”. (Connors, 2013). Therefore, it is necessary for all service providers to participate in cultural competence and understanding as it relates to the indigenous populations they serve.

It is very important to consider the individual’s experience and practices with respect to cultural teachings and practices and not make any assumptions. It is the responsibility of service providers to be culturally aware and competent working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit clients. For agencies working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations it is essential that program planning and policies be culturally informed and competent. The information provided below may not be relevant to the clients you are working with and it is important to be curious about cultural beliefs and practices in working with clients.

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