By Jordan Asels, Supervisor of Wood’s Homes Trailcross Treatment Centre
The smells of sage and moose hide, and the sounds of singing and beating drums are only a few of the things I’ve been accustomed to growing up in the North. Like many up here, my culture is a big part of my identity – not something that is supplementary to who I am.
Trailcross Treatment Center offers services to Aboriginal children, youth and families who live in the Northwest Territories (NWT) that share similar cultural experiences. As the only mental health treatment centre in the NWT for youth ages 12-18 years, Trailcross is situated between Wood Buffalo National Park and the Salve River. The multicultural community of Fort Smith offers a vastness of opportunity and resources for our clients/staff to explore and connect with their culture.
Over the past year, Trailcross has been implementing a more culturally-based approach to treatment. Using a holistic approach, Trailcross looks to provide balance and healing in the lives of children, youth and their families through cultural and traditional means. This transition of perspective has been gradual, and began with small changes in our work with children, youth and families.
Utilizing identified family, Trailcross invites all members important to the child/youth to share their knowledge of culture and tradition, as well as adopt practices inherent to the child/youth as part of their treatment. Everyone, including family members, are given space to express and share what helps their family heal.
While in the program, materials, time and space are provided for all children/youth to practice their cultural and family rituals. If permitted, the youth are encouraged to share, participate and learn from one another. In addition, cultural camps – aimed at reuniting families on the land, and exploring their vast knowledge of being in the outdoors and cultural roots – are planned with local Elders and cultural leaders.
It has been an amazing year of exploring culture with the children, youth and families who’ve visited the Trailcross Treatment Centre. One of the best parts was being able to see firsthand how people shift and change when immersed in their culture while teaching others. Although Trailcross has only skimmed the top of how to become culturally-centred, we continue to move forward with enthusiasm and excitement as we learn about how to further unite treatment and culture.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!