Indigenous men come together in Sask. to work toward healing, change


Chester Herman was gassing up his car when he observed a poster for a men’s wellness convention hosted by the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) outreach staff.

It’s not one thing that will sometimes cease him in his tracks, however the poster listed grief and loss among the many matters to be mentioned.

“It sort of hit the spot for me. I’m going by means of lots due to my loss,” he stated, describing an immense sorrow he has felt for the reason that dying of his spouse.

The overarching theme of the convention —  which came about final week in Meadow Lake, Sask. — was coping with the basis causes of present points going through some Indigenous men, similar to psychological well being challenges, addictions, grief and guilt.

Herman, a widow from Clearwater River Dene Nation, signed up alongside greater than 200 different men.

MLTC Vice Chief Richard Derocher stated many Indigenous communities are struggling due to unresolved trauma. He stated they’re attempting to break the cycles of violence inside men.

“Pre-contact, our men have been very loving, very protecting, suppliers of our communities. The men you see at present — I will not say all men however a very good variety of the men — have been harm, and once you’re harm you go in defensive mode,” Derocher stated.

“I’m speaking in regards to the medication, the alcohol, the abuse.” 

Root causes of points

Derocher stated organizers need to assist men perceive the emotional ache and violence that has been handed down by means of generations. The trauma stems from colonial practices that eliminated individuals from their tradition and households, just like the pressured attendance of residential faculties and the Sixties Scoop, he stated.

“We have to get to the basis points, the basis of what causes us to behave the best way we behave as First Nations men, as Indigenous men,” he stated.

Derocher stated men should know that therapeutic is feasible. 

“In our communities the ladies are leaders in therapeutic, and the ladies have been asking us for a few years, for the men to step up.”

For Derocher, the primary method to step up is to open up and discuss. He stated it was encouraging to witness that on the convention, as issues amongst all generations got here to mild.

“We’ve acquired 16, 17-year-olds and guys in their 80s right here, and so they’re sharing, they’re speaking about their experiences similar to residential faculties, they’re speaking of their expertise about gangster life.”

Men spoke about homicides involving family members, dropping their youngsters to suicide, grappling with guilt from being abused or perpetrating violence.

Norman Opekokew, a Cree participant from the Canoe Lake First Nation, stated lots of the men realized for the primary time that they weren’t alone in their struggles.

Until the convention, many had buried their emotions as an alternative of coping with them, he stated.

“I’ve performed that myself, the issues which have harm me in the previous, I’ve hidden.”

The MLTC outreach employees stated greater than 200 men participated in the convention, and got here from all of MLTC’s member nations in addition to different communities in Saskatchewan and Alberta. (Submitted by Patricia Main)

Herman stated the discussions have been heavy, however that he heard many concepts that helped him to perceive sure emotions for the primary time.

“As an Aboriginal particular person, it hits you in locations that — you understand, It’s at all times been there, however you do not know how to take care of it, so that you by no means carry it up, however at this convention we get an opportunity to categorical ourselves,” he stated.

“It’s an eye-opener and it is a journey for us northern men to begin therapeutic from all of the ache.”

Tools of vulnerability and humour

Men on the convention collaborated to create options for change. Guest audio system shared tales of their very own journeys, providing hope, inspiration and recommendation.

Opekokew stated some teachings that caught with him essentially the most have been the significance of prayer and the worth of being susceptible with others.

“Reveal your personal feelings, enable your self to cry, enable your self to really feel that ache and let it go,” he stated.

He additionally realized how essential it’s to snigger “proper from the intestine, from the guts.”

Humour can be utilized to stability heavy discussions, stated convention visitor speaker and Cree comic Don Burnstick from Alexander First Nation.

Burnstick stated Indigenous men have been historically neighborhood protectors, who would “warrior up” for the hunt however be mild in the house.

“Through the residential college course of and the colonization, we misplaced the gentleness. We simply know the way to warrior up and we turned too exhausting,” he stated. “We know the way to punch issues, after we’re mad. Men do not know the way to course of emotional ache.”

He stated emotional ache has been heightened inside Indigenous communities. He stated he is seen many individuals triggered in the previous couple of years by public discussions, stories and findings that reveal or verify the extent of violence performed toward Indigenous individuals.

Burnstick pointed to the hundreds of unmarked graves discovered at residential faculties, the pope’s go to and apology, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and lacking and murdered Indigenous ladies and women.

He stated individuals want to have the option to share in pleasure and laughter as they work by means of their ache.

Chester Herman, left, with Don Burnstick, a Cree comic from the Alexander First Nation in Alberta. (Submitted by Chester Herman)

MLTC outreach employee Patricia Main helped set up the gathering.

“I feel that our individuals are prepared to heal, to say we’re going to start to take accountability … start to take care of their very own points,” Main stated. “We do not want to keep in that path of trauma and really feel caught.”

Her colleague and fellow organizer Geneva Kelly stated men traditionally have not proven up to MLTC applications targeted on therapeutic and breaking cycles of violence, however this men’s convention reached max capability.

“I need to see extra communities in Saskatchewan doing this,” she stated. “I’m bored with listening to about suicides and household violence. People are simply crying out for assist like ‘I do not know what to do. I do not know the way to repair my life,’ and I feel that is a solution, or a part of the reply.”

Main hopes the convention sparks a motion.

“I actually consider that we’re in a season of renewal, a season of restoration, a season of resetting who we’re as Indigenous individuals,” she stated. “It’s our flip now to write our storyline. We do not want the federal government. We do not want the church.”

She stated MLTC will set up extra gatherings and workshops regionally, additionally specializing in land-based programming and sharing tales.

Patricia Main, left, stated she and different organizers hope the gathering is a step toward creating more healthy communities. (Dale Apesis)

Main and Vice Chief Derocher would really like to see the men who attended the convention take the teachings house, beginning their very own men’s circles to encourage therapeutic, accountability and change.

“We’ve acquired to make our home a house, Derocher stated. “A secure place the place there isn’t a abuse of any type — be it non secular, be it sexual, be it bodily, be it emotional — so our youngsters develop up and our grandchildren develop up normalizing that good behaviour.”

That resonated with Chester Herman. After the convention, he felt motivated to create change.

“I’m hoping this grows, as a result of you understand what I’m taking in, I might love to cross it on to my neighborhood,” he stated.

“It’s time for us men to step up now. We are the protectors of our properties, of our communities.”

Support is out there for anybody affected by their expertise at residential faculties or by the newest stories.

A nationwide Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been arrange to present help for survivors and people affected. People can entry emotional and disaster referral providers by calling the 24-hour nationwide disaster line: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental well being counselling and disaster help can be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days per week by means of the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by on-line chat at


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