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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ne kwin dist ggan (the light is lit again) : healing trauma in the Wet'suwet'en Nation with Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapy Panofsky, Sarah


Contemporary Indigenous mental health research is beginning to address colonization, contextualizing Indigenous health within a history of colonial relationships and inadequate mental health responses. In practice, however, dominant counselling models for mental health in Canada have neglected the Indigenous perspective and there is a paucity of research regarding interventions that address psychological trauma with Indigenous populations. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs recognize the profound impacts that historical trauma has on Wet’suwet’en people and are utilizing Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapy (IFOT), a trauma therapy model that is collective, land-based, and intergenerational, to help their Nation heal. Drawing on Indigenous and decolonizing methodologies, and supported by narrative inquiry and analysis, this thesis explores how IFOT is shaped by Wet’suwet’en ways of knowing and being and mobilized at the level of individuals, families, house groups, and the Nation. 11 Wet’suwet’en members and IFOT practitioners participated in this study that utilized a sharing circle process privileging storytelling for data collection and interpretation. The findings demonstrated that IFOT helped to heal trauma so that Wet’suwet’en people could experience greater connection with Wet’suwet’en yintah (land), and c’idede’ (teachings and stories from long ago). The strategic implementation of IFOT by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs created a culturally pertinent model for community-based healing. Through IFOT and in alignment with Wet’suwet’en ways of knowing and being, participants gained connection to yintah, ancestors, spirituality, language, stories, and ceremony. IFOT helped individuals to experience a sense of collective belonging that encouraged them to take up their responsibilities as Wet’suwet’en people within the traditional system of governance. IFOT supported the reclamation of Wet’suwet’en identities, which became a foundation for self-determination and social action. IFOT was decolonizing in its promotion of Wet’suwet’en wellbeing and healing from within the community. Continued healing in the Wet’suwet’en Nation will be a gradual process, rooted in Wet’suwet’en ways of knowing and being.

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