By Brandy Kane, Thunder Eagle Woman
BWSS Manager of Indigenous Women’s Program
My ceremonial name is Thunder Eagle Woman and my colonial name is Brandy Kane. I come from St’at’imc territory located in the Interior Salish area of British Columbia. I was born and raised in East Vancouver. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a partner, and a friend. I am also the Indigenous Women’s program Manager at Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).
I believe that a decolonizing practice is needed in healing our Indigenous community. My vision has always been an Indigenous Program using First Nations cultural wholistic healing modalities such as cedar brushing, smudging, sweat lodge ceremonies, Grandmother Moon ceremonies, talking circles, and cold-water baths. At BWSS we incorporate teachings from Elders and ceremonial people. We designed our program from a wholistic Indigenous healing viewpoint as well as working with clients using the strength-based model for counselling. We implement the four quadrants of the Medicine Wheel; looking at the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of healing (Bopp & Bopp, 2006). Anderson states, “Reclaiming Indigenous ways is how we are going to recover as individuals, families, and nations.” (2000, p. 34).
The value and significance of traditional Indigenous practices has been mentioned in many writings. “Many Native people have been alienated, at least in part, from their traditions, ceremonies, language, and religions “(Weaver & White, 2007). Therefore, bringing women into ceremony and giving them an opportunity to connect and heal in a spiritual way has been invaluable, especially here in our urban city. Many of my sister’s that I work with have never experienced ceremony before. Absolon states, “Terms like reclaim, reconnect, recover and revitalize are used to characterize a desire and fulfill a vision of a grand healing that is occurring.” (2009, p.194).
I believe that the government has made an apology to the survivors of residential schools, now they need to do something about the after effects of how it has negatively affected the generations of our people. Without the legacy of residential schools and colonization, Indigenous people would have healthy relationships with their families, connection with their culture, connection to the land and knowledge of their language. I have worked with many Indigenous women that are struggling with addiction, and many of them are young mothers living without their children. Anderson and Lawrence (2003) make reference to how we need to lobby different levels of government and do something about our history, and challenge the government to take responsibility for the legacy of residential schools. Residential school survivors may have experienced many levels of abuse including: sexual abuse, violence, and alcohol and drug addiction. These abuses have had a profound effect on our people. I feel that the time is now for the healing of our nations; they need to implement healing around this issue, not only for the generations that attended residential school but also for the families that were affected.
Hart spoke of the importance of “An Aboriginal approach that is made up of several foundational concepts that stem from the medicine wheel. These include wholeness, balance, and relationships between all parts, harmony, growth, healing, and the primary goal of mino-pimatisiwin.” (2003, p. 101) This means seeking the good life. Colonization has done extensive damage to the spirits of First Nations People, but we are a resilient people and we will triumph. My passion is working with my people and breaking the cycle of abuse that has been embedded within us by residential school, assimilation, and cultural genocide. Our goal is to provide a safe space where women can access Elders, ceremonies, counsellors, and traditional medicines. Indigenous wholistic healing practices are what work for Indigenous peoples and implement a sense of identity as well as decolonizing and reclaiming Indigenous cultures among our peoples.
I have seen the benefits that came about with my family, friends, and community with the many different ceremonies I have participated in. Prayers really are answered when one walks in a good way and prays. I have taken women and youth to Sundance, Grandmother Moon, Yuwipi ceremonies, as well as to the Sweat lodge. The healing that takes place you can’t find in an office. The spirit that comes into the ceremony isn’t something you can get from a one-hour session. McCormick (2005) refers to ceremony and how important it is to the healing process of Aboriginal people and their connection the spirit and Mother Earth. Western models and mainstream theories aren’t as successful as Indigenous wholistic healing practices. Working with Elders and ceremonies is what is working for our people and healing and reclaiming our Indigenous way of life. Saulis explains, “The Creator influences your life. The presence of the Creator and the knowledge that flows from the Creator have meaning in this world- both the world you see (physical and conscious) and the world you can’t see (the unconscious, instinctive, intuitive, spiritual, universal)” (2011, p.88).
I am giving back to my community what has been freely given to me, and this is the gift of life. Today, I live my life with love, compassion, patience, and a need to help others. I follow the seven principles to the best of my ability, fortitude, humility, courage, honesty, gratitude, generosity and respect. My life situation brought me to some very scary places of drug and alcohol abuse and I can relate to what a lot of my sisters are going through. By the grace of the Creator, I was given the gift of life and with my life I walk on the red road. It is my belief that the traumas and hardships I’ve endured are so that I may relate and have an understanding to better help the women I work with. I see the positive in the life I have led and where my hardships brought me because I have an understanding and can truly feel empathy when I do the work that I do. Wholistic healing practices have benefited my practice thus far and with the teachings I am receiving here on my walk with spiritual leaders and Elders.
Kukwstumc’ (Thank You)
Absolon, K. (2009). Navigating the Landscape of Practice Dhaagmowin of a Helper. In Sinclair, R., Hart, M.A., & Bruyere, G., (Ed.), Wicihitowin, Aboriginal Social Work in Canada. Black Point NS: Fernwood Publishing
Anderson, K. (2000). Marriage, Divorce and Family Life. In A Recognition of Being:
Reconstructing Native Womanhood, (pp 79-98). Toronto: Second Story Press.
Anderson, K. & Lawrence, B. (2003). Strong Women Stories: Native Vision and Community Survival. Toronto: Sumach Press.
Bopp, M. & Bopp, J. (2006). Recreating the World: A Practical Guide to Building Sustainable Communities. Calgary, Alta: Four Worlds Press.
Hart, M. A. (2003). Seeking Mino-Pimatisiwin. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
McCormick, R. (2005). The Healing Path. In Moodley, R., and West, W., (Ed.), Integrating Traditional Healing Practices Into Counseling and Psychotherapy, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.
Saulis, M. (2011). Indigenous Wholistic Healing Social Policy.
Weaver, H., & White, B. (2007) The Native American Family Circle: Roots of Resiliency. JournalOf Family social work, 2(1), (pp 67-79).
Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:
International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada
Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women
Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence
The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes
16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment
If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?