TESE meeting 2017

The annual Two-Eyed Seeing Evaluation (TESE) meeting was held in Montreal from September 19 to 21. We were honoured by the presence of Amelia Tekwatonti McGregor, a wonderful Mohawk Elder from Kahnawake, who conducted the Opening Ceremony. “Let our minds come together as one mind … Teiethinonhwerá:ton ne Onkwehshón:’a…

Together, researchers and First Nations partners (Secwepemc, BC; Swampy Cree, MB; and Anishinabe, ON) reviewed feedback received over the last year from participants and facilitators regarding the program’s content and also on some of the challenges that communities sometimes have encountered. Participants from all ages indicated that they enjoy being together. It underscores the importance of providing healthy meals and a safe space for the program delivery. Youth and adults also report their appreciation for the Elder’s story. The lessons embedded in the Teachings are followed by a discussion, which gives the opportunity to talk about daily concerns and to learn from each other (wisdom from within the circle). The local Indigenous worldview is also appreciated as it is mentioned in this following quote: “I learned that I want my children to grow up traditionally and [I will] try [to] learn the language”. We have also received positive feedback from caregivers who report feeling confident about their parenting skills. For example, this quote written after Session 3: “the activities have helped knowing what kinds of skills, values I want my child to grow up with and finding out how they can achieve them”.

At the end of Day 1, two young Wapikoni video producers came to our office to film the attendees, who shared their thoughts about the day-discussions. The idea is to communicate the research outcomes to community members and former participants. Once these short videos will be edited, we hope to present them in community gatherings.

Figure 1: Amelia, Aaron, Deanna, Eli, Dennis, Nicole, Laurence, Jonathon, Yvonne, Howard, Margaret, Dominique and Madeleine.

On Day 2, we identified the program components that were the most susceptible to promote family wellness. For example, at Session 12, the strength-based activity that is often mentioned is the ‘Yarn Circle Activity’. It provides an opportunity to say positive things about each other and shows how everyone is connected to each other. A facilitator starts this activity, by throwing a ball of yarn to a participant telling how his/her presence is appreciated. The person who receives the compliment and the ball of yarn continues the process by tossing the ball to someone else in the circle and saying what they appreciate about this person. Everyone says and receives a positive comment, which reinforces strengths as opposed to pointing out negative behaviours.

Regarding things to be improved, it was reported that sometimes, too many activities are proposed in the Manual and facilitators aren’t always able to complete each one of them. To select the activities that fit the needs and interests of the group, facilitators are recommended to review the session ahead of time and to prioritize accordingly. It was also mentioned that the new ‘Family Tree’ activity needed to be better explained at the training session. This activity was integrated in 2017 in order to develop a visual representation of all the items that participants want to remember from the 14 sessions. Along the course of the program, each family is creating a tree with:

  • Roots that represent their cultural heritage,
  • A trunk to insert their family values
  • Leaves and branches that show the skills they have learned
  • Acorns or fruits to symbolise their visions for the future.

At Session 13, a mural with the trees of each family is created to represent a forest of strengths, which will be posted on the wall at graduation (Session 14). Families are invited to explain the meanings embedded in their respective tree to the relatives and guests attending the celebration. This collaborative artwork stimulates participants to discuss their learnings.

The creation of an art piece that can be brought home also increases participants’ self-esteem. This outcome was observed by Dr. Jaswant Guzder, pediatrician and researcher who has now moved to Vancouver and is on the process of partnering with an Indigenous group from this region. She presented the ‘Dream a World’ program that was delivered in Jamaican schools over the last 15 years, in which artistic activities have helped many vulnerable youths feel proud of themselves. Similarly, Deanna Cook shared about a new program that was offered to the youth at the Splatsin Teaching Society centre over the summer months. In this program too, participants were also proud of creating different traditional items, which they were happy to bring home. Deanna was impressed by the benevolence of former program participants, who were helping out and acting as role model when, for instance, it was time to clean up at the end of the meal.

Figure 2 Reviewing feedback received from participants and facilitators

Later on, Nicole D’souza, a young McGill researcher, who is coordinating the CIHR grant with the mandate to evaluate the implementation process, presented some ideas on ways to share our experiential knowledge that we have acquired over the years from participating to the adaption, delivery and evaluation of the program. Key-stakeholders, such as facilitators, coordinators or leaders could be interviewed so that their insight would inform other groups about possible barriers and most importantly, provide a list of solutions that might contribute to the success of a program implementation. Possibly former participants would also be asked about the skills they have learned and how they have used them in their daily life.

Each year, we try to integrate more items that reflect the richness of the First Nation cultures. In 2016-17, the Elders were invited to further adapt the program by telling local stories that have been transmitted to them by their Elders. To inspire them, the Facilitator Manual provides examples of stories and videos that relate to the theme of the sessions. For the next version of the Manual in 2018, we hope to receive more stories from each community. It will be the last version of the Manual since funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada is ending in March 2018. After this date, each regional Indigenous institution will have to find new sources of funding in order to continue offering the program to the surrounding communities. A workshop on funding opportunities and on grant application was given by Madeleine Pawlowski, who has also developed informative booklets on this topic.

Finally, we watched a new video that was recorded by StrongFront TV (Winnipeg, MB), in which Howard Copenace tells the Anishinabe Creation Story to a group of youth. Then, Deanna’s son, Aaron Leon, showed us an ‘Augmented Reality App’ that activates on a piece of paper a traditional Secwepemc story, in which former participants to the program are main actors. AMAZING! It was a nice way to end the day as these accomplishments give us more energy for this year’s program delivery.

On September 21, it was Margaret Ballantyne’s turn to be filmed by the Wapikoni crew as she told the Cree Creation Story. To add visual components to the story, a Mi’gmaq artist, Raymond Caplan, will insert animated drawings to the video. Also, at the sound studio, various First Nation representatives were asked to translate in their languages a video that helps youth understand the impact of anger on others. Hence youth will listen to a video in their native language with English subtitles, which might help them learn new words, while at the same time learning about the impact of anger on others. They will discuss together about things that make them angry and ways that might help a person to calm down. We are looking forward to include these new videos into the respective versions of the program.

Figure 3: Jonathon Weenusk, new Swampy Cree Coordinator, is reviewing the Cree translation for the video: “The Child that hammered nails” that helps youths understand the impact of anger. Figure 4: Margaret Ballantyne, a program facilitator, is recording the English translation of EPSI (Long ago) NISTOM (First) ASKEW (Earth) ACHIMOWIN (Story) with Simon Walls (Wapikoni).

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