Cultural Adaptation in Siska, BC

In July 2018, the then-national coordinator, Dominique Geoffroy, research coordinator Nicole D’souza, and research assistant, Mia Messer, traveled to Siska, British Columbia to meet new community partners from the Nlaka’pamux Nation. The team was greeted by mental health clinician’s manager Elizabeth Perdok-Waboose, facilitator Erin Aleck and co-facilitator Ashley Loring-Earl and researcher April Mazzuca at Heskwenscutxe Health Center. The first day was spent getting to know each other, and learning the stories of the land. Erin dedicated her time by taking our group to various important sites, such as the Stein River Valley, the site of the First Salmon Ceremony, and other personally special places. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful, and the stories even more so. 

The second day was focused on the present-day. A focus group was held with Erin, Ashley, and the Elder, Ina at the health service building. Together we examined the program’s content and materials that Erin had adapted and put together, such as personalized Zu? Zu? Twu?x sweatshirts for her participants. Erin had used a rug, bought by a First Nation magazine, to serve as the center piece to the program meeting space; it was a soft, cozy rug that the kids could lie upon and sit on during sessions.

The adaptation process, especially the language translation, was time-consuming, and at times overwhelming. Erin was learning the language as she put the program together, and depended on community members and Elders to help her translate. In the moments of stress, Ina held a deeply important role for Erin, who often described her as her rock.

On the third day of the visit, we spent the day with Elizabeth and Wanda Dexel from Scw’exmx Community Health Services Society in Merritt, BC. Here, we discussed the potential of the program to exist in the Nlaka’pamux Nation at the organizational level. These talented women specialized in focus-oriented therapy, and the LTOA program looked like a promising vessel for community healing and mental health promotion. Dominique introduced some of the sessions by showing session overview videos. We finished this meeting by reviewing what the program will need to continue in the future within this region. For example, the facilitator is a key player during the program, as issues happening within the community may impact the families participating in the program. The facilitator needs to be capable of shutting down external conflicts during the program, which can put the facilitator in a difficult position. The space in which the program takes place also impacts how the program unfolds. This notion has been further developed within the past year with Erin and Ina, as well as with other community members, at various meetings that have been held with the LTOA team. Ultimately, creating a space that encourages people to take part in the program, regardless of what may be occurring in the community, and having a role model as a facilitator, instills the values of the program. Lastly, certain resources are absolutely critical in order to implement the program to its fullest and best extent.

 

Overall, the first trip to Siska was a success, and it created a strong foundation for relationships that have been built throughout the past year. Erin, Ina and April have joined the LTOA research team in Montreal and Winnipeg since, and Dominique and Mia had the opportunity to visit Siska in January 2019.

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