Last week I had the privilege of sitting down with George Harris Jr. of Stz’uminus First Nation. George works with children and families from Stz’uminus, and is passionate about supporting capacity building through maintaining a strong connection to Coast Salish culture. George shared how his mother influenced his professional journey, and how he brings those teachings to his practice:
“I carry a memory from my childhood…a conversation I shared with my mother. One day when I was young, she gestured to my head and said ‘one day you will go to school. This is where you will gain the knowledge you will need to help support your community.’ Then she gestured to my heart: ‘this is where you will absorb all of the important wisdom and teachings.’ Finally, she gestured to my hands. ‘One day, the lessons in your brain and the teachings in your heart will flow out through your hands; with these hands you will be able to do the work that needs to be done to support our people.’”
One of the legacies of residential schools can be a hesitation for survivors to access services, even when they really need them. This may present as missed appointments or avoidance of care, and result in services being accessed only when treatment can no longer be avoided and has become an emergency. Trauma and fear can become significant barriers to care, and these fears can be passed on to children, which is called intergenerational trauma. As a clinician, it is important for me to learn what I can do to support families in navigating these fears, and ensuring that I am enlisting supportive, capacity building strategies. I need to be very careful that my interactions are not perceived as threatening or punitive. I need to use my head and my heart to do this, understanding the history, and supporting families in a relational, caring way. I am grateful to teachers like George, who help to light this path for me, and guide my practice.