Finding Healing from the Residential School System: TWC Indigenous Programming

Memorial with flowers and indigenous community members honouring the lives of the 215 children lost at the Kamloops Residential School
A memorial honouring the 215 children at Kamloops Residential School

Written and submitted by Tyler Craig, BA

The recent discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children at Kamloops Residential School is a stark reminder of the sordid history of the residential school system. It is expected that as other residential school sites are searched that more unmarked graves of children will be found. This is a time of profound sorrow and is awakening many people to the atrocities of the residential school system. We at Together We Can express our deepest condolences to the families and communities that are grieving and stand in solidarity as they mourn and find a path to healing. The injustices caused by the residential school system must never be forgotten and concrete action needs to be taken to foster healing and reconciliation.

Together We Can is committed to ensuring that our indigenous clients are supported at this time. Over 90% of our indigenous clients report either being a former student of the residential school system or have been intergenerationally impacted. Our clients further report the associated grief and trauma being a significant contributing factor to their addiction. This has often led to a loss of indigenous cultural identity and disconnection from traditional culture. We steadfastly agree that addressing the aforementioned factors needs to be conducted with a “culture is treatment” model.

For this reason, we developed the TWC All My Relations program in 2016 with the cooperation of indigenous organizations and the support of local elders and knowledge keepers. We recognized that a culturally relevant program was needed to facilitate recovery from addiction. At the TWC All My Relations program, cultural teachings, indigenous ceremonies and on the land teachings are at the core of this program. Clients are connected to culturally appropriate counselling services and with elders for individual sessions to address grief and trauma. Our goal is for TWC All My Relations clients to become culturally connected and that they are afforded the chance to build a strong indigenous cultural identity. Program graduates often report that the cultural support and that being introduced to indigenous ceremonies and teachings has been instrumental in them being able to overcome their grief and trauma.

Together We Can will continue to be committed to fostering culturally appropriate healing for our indigenous clients. Regardless of which primary treatment program an indigenous client attends, we aim to ensure that the principles of cultural safety and humility are at the core of our interventions. We have a dedicated second stage residence for indigenous clients where they can benefit from continuing cultural support from TWC and are encouraged to build a connection to the local traditional indigenous community.

Prior to COVID, we welcomed indigenous community organizations and groups to use space at TWC Main Centre for their meetings and activities. While this has been put on pause, once it is safe to do so once again, we are prepared to offer space at TWC Main Centre for Vancouver indigenous organizations and groups for their use. Hosting indigenous based activities at our Main Centre has had the secondary benefit of introducing our non-indigenous clients to traditional indigenous culture and teachings. We will be resuming community indigenous events such as traditional feasts and ceremonies after COVID. Please stay tuned to our blog and social media posts for when these are resumed post-COVID. Through this, we are committed as an organization to take a meaningful role in helping the indigenous community heal from the residential school system.

Please visit https://twcrecoverylife.org/all-my-relations for more information on the All My Relations program.

Every Child Matters poster showing support and remembrance for the 215 children who passed away at the Kamloops Residential School

Together We Can is a drug & alcohol recovery treatment center in Vancouver BC. https://twcrecoverylife.org