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The values of the Sacred Tree

At the Culturally-Based, Family-Centred Mental Health Promotion for Aboriginal Youth project’s team meeting in May 2014, all present Team Members were asked to look at a drawing of the Anishinabe Sacred Tree which was used in the Anishinabe version of the programme. The drawing showed the Sacred Tree with different values written on the leaves. We asked our team members to choose one value and tell us why it is important to them.


Beginning Group 2, looking ahead

Work in the communities is going very well. We have enrolled 33 families in the program across all four communities and to date have successfully completed the program with 23 families. Three of our four communities have finished post-tests and we are now beginning the Group 2 program with just over 20 families. Depending on summer schedules, we may finish with Group 2 families this summer or the communities may decide to finish in the Fall after Summer break. We are waiting to hear from the three community groups how they want to move forward over the summer months, but we anticipate completing Group 2 by October at the latest.
At UNL and UMD, we are currently in the process of developing new generic materials that can be used by various communities to adapt the manuals. Our hope is that these new manuals will continue to evolve over time for use with different communities and age groups, and for different purposes and in different venues.​ These materials include:
​1)    A New Training Manual
​​​​a.     Seven chapters on the program, facilitating, ethics, and data collection.
2)    An Updated Facilitator Manual
3)    Updated Parent and Youth Booklets
4)    A New Activity Booklet
​​a.     Includes examples and ordering information for weekly activities.
We have planned our next team meeting for June 27-28 where we will bring all of our staff, facilitators, and advisory board members together to collaboratively complete our team report and make recommendations for the sustainability plan of the program once the project ends in March 2015. We look forward to sending updates and sharing electronic versions of the new generic manuals after our next team meeting!!

Team meeting 2014

It’s been great to have the MHP team all together in Montreal for our team meeting, our first since October 2012. Of course, our coordinator Dominique has been in constant email/telephone contact with all the teams in Canada and the US but there’s nothing like meeting face to face!

MHP team meeting

Ron, Melissa and Devan

Laurence welcoming the group

Laurence welcoming the group

The two days kicked off with an update from each team.

Anishinabe – gearing towards sustainability
Devan Crawford and Melissa Walls shared the progress of the Anishinabe team. Of all the communities running the programme, there were a total of 33 families participating in the last round, with 23 families graduating, an excellent result! However there are some challenges too, in particular finding facilitators has been difficult.

Devan talked about their team’s strong desire to make this project sustainable so that other communities in the future would be able to run the programme themselves, using a complete “how to do it” document. They hope to provide all the materials to run the programme including a manual and parent and youth booklets for free online. These documents would be editable and ready for different communities to adapt the programme to their own culture. All activities listed in the manual would be optional and would come with a list of suggested alternates so that the programme is truly flexible and adaptable to each community’s needs and available resources. They would also like to set up a peer system where communities who have already completed the programme can be available to provide advice for new communities starting out. There is a strong desire to keep this project going, and not to let it end once the funding runs out.


Devan showing a board game developed by one of the communities

Québec – a new community interested in the project!
The Québec team was represented by Patricia Montambault, Karen Gobeil and Arlene Laliberté. Patricia shared that she and her colleague Audrey Vézina from the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) will soon be meeting with a new Innu community in Northern Quebec. They will review the program and the evaluation process with interested local members.

Also in Quebec, a second round of the program will begin in September in Gesgapegiag, a Mi’gmaq community. In the meantime, the local team is planning to improve the cultural adaptation by producing new material.

Swampy Cree – finding programme champions
Lawrence Katz and Corrine Isaak from the Manitoba team spoke about the rewards and challenges in running the programme in the Swampy Cree communities. Two communities have completed one round, one group had three graduating families and the other had four families. Currently there are other communities at various stages of the programme.

Recruiting and retaining facilitators is the most difficult part of running the programme. Many facilitators have full time jobs so they are fitting their work as facilitators in as a second job.

Ron Cook as the liaison between the University and the communities travels out to visit all the communities and provides support for the facilitators. Some communities are very small so finding ten families that fit the programme criteria is a challenge. However, for the families that do attend the programme the feedback has been very positive. In one community the families are getting to know each other better, fostering a closer knit community and there was a blanket ceremony as part of the graduation session. Word of mouth spreads easily through the small communities so team members stressed the importance of finding champions of the programme.


Corinne and Lawrence

Splatsin – changing the way we interact at home

Raven Sinclair showed the group a video of stills from the second round of the program. It was great to see the families smiling, playing, working, and enjoying being together. Feedback from participants have been wonderful, with some parents in particular stating how the programme has changed how their families interact with each other at home. To watch the video, click here.


Raven and Lawrence enjoying the video of participants from the Splatsin community

As the project is coming to its 4th year, the aim is to standardize the ‘Team Report’ across sites. Much of the meeting covered a section-by-section review of the evaluation process.

The team lunched on delicious and nutritious food provided by Kwe Kwe Gourmet from Kahnawake.


some delicious venison pie for lunch!

As a wrap up after lunch on our last day, we passed around an image of the Anishinabe Sacred Tree that was used in the programme by the Anishinabe communities and asked all team members to choose one value from the Tree they felt was the most important to them (strength, patience, discipline, etc.) and why. We’ll have the results up very soon, it was great to hear the diversity of answers!


Team meeting photo: Dominique, Raven, Patricia, Laurence, Ron, Lawrence, Karen, Sophie, Corinne, Devan, Melissa

Till the next meeting!

Dominique and Sophie


Manitoba Update March 21, 2014

PHAC Family-based Project

We continue to move along with the PHAC project in the Swampy Cree communities.

We are pleased to share that one community (Chemawawin) has completed all 14 sessions with 3 families and a second community (Moose Lake) will complete next week also with 3 families. The Moose Lake facilitators are planning a blanket ceremony where additional members of the attending families as well as Ron Cook our Tribal facilitator will be invited (we are hoping to get some photos of this event).

Other communities are restarting after somewhat of a hiatus due to facilitator schedules, illnesses, community issues etc. Grand Rapids will restart next week at session 9 with approximately 7 families. As well Sapotaweyak has recently restarted with 4 families at Session 3 and 4 this week. Communities who are restarting are finding that having more than one session per week is most suitable for families and facilitators.

The community of Wuskwi Sipihk is hoping to start sessions very soon with 3 families. This community continues to experience setbacks and difficult circumstances.

Finally, new facilitators have come on board and have been trained in Pukatawagan and Opaskwayak where they are in the recruitment stage each having approximately 5 families interested in participating in the program.

To date we do not yet have any of the follow-up surveys completed in the communities although we continue to encourage facilitators to complete these with the help of Ron Cook.

Corinne Isaak

A podcast with Dr. Melissa Walls

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 3.35.28 PM

A month ago, myself and Dominique Geoffroy were happy to conduct a podcast interview with Dr. Melissa Walls on her article “Rebuilding our community”: Hearing silenced voices on Aboriginal youth suicide. The article was published in the February 2014 issue of Transcultural Psychiatry. In the podcast, Melissa discusses a qualitative study in which she traveled to three Aboriginal communities to discuss the issue of youth suicide with elders and service providers. Melissa and her team then classified the risks factors in Aboriginal youth suicidality identified by the communities into micro (interpersonal) stressors, meso (family/community level) stressors and macro (governmental, environmental, economic) stressors. They found that the community members were not emphasizing individual level pathologies (such as mental illness or depression), but that the strongest stressors identified by the focus groups were macro-level, particularly historical trauma.

To listen to the podcast, please click here.

It was great to hear Melissa talk about her work and how the results of that study led to her involvement in our current project!


Update on Splatsin’s second round

Waytk! From Splatsin

Here in BC we are nearing the conclusion of our second round of the project. We began in early October and have been meeting each week with fairly consistent regularity, with a break over the Christmas holidays. We have had the great fortune of having an eager group who are enjoying our weekly meeting times. We have also been lucky to have a great number of participants this time around. We are topping out at upwards of 27 people in our room on some nights, including facilitators…which makes for a busy and happening evening! Similar to last year, we have a variety of participants ranging from biological mothers and daughters, foster parents with their foster children who are also accompanied by their biological mother as well. We also have a grandmother who is joining her daughter and three granddaughters each week as well. On two nights we also had a dad join us which was also great to see. As you can see in some of the photos, we are in the process of making drums with our families. We had two community elders join us and show us how to lace the hides on the frames. Our long term goal is to have our youth make their drums and drum sticks, paint the drums, learn a traditional song, and then perform the song at our final celebration feast. Time will tell how close we get to the goal! Our final celebration feast is scheduled for March 11, so we have lots to accomplish before we wind up prior to the Spring Break. Best wishes to all the other programs and hope you are all doing well.

Don, Julianna, Tracey.






Masteuiatsh and the Ilnu culture

On 17 October 2013 a meeting was held with the aim to assess the degree of fidelity of the intervention (we compared the Ilnu version of the intervention to the original program).
The question we asked was: during the 14 sessions, did the adapted program follow the same objectives?
Audrey (Quebec coordinator on the left of the photo) recorded the responses of (from left to right) Jacinthe, Meggie (facilitators) and Maggie (coordinator). Thank you all for your cooperation!
After the meeting, I (the new project coordinator) visited the Native Museum of Mashteuiatsh to discover more about the Ilnu culture.
 musee rotated
Respect is an important value in the Ilnu culture. In the language, the verb “to see” is pronounced differently depending on whether the eye rests on living beings (see the woman at the top of the mural in the image) or inanimate things (see the man at the bottom of the mural in the image), in order to give special consideration for all living beings.
murale rotated
Denis is the designer of the mural and a guide at the museum. Thank you to Denis and to all the staff of the museum, including Denise and Louise, for their warm welcome.
Mashteuiatsh is located on Lake St- Jean.
The culture is also very present in the interior of L’auberge Robertson. It was a very nice place for a pleasant stay in Mashteuiatsh.

Mashteuiatsh et la culture Ilnu

Le 17 octobre 2013 a eu lieu une rencontre ayant pour but d’évaluer le degré de fidélité de l’intervention (version Ilnu à celle du programme original).

Question posée: Au cours des 14 sessions, est-ce que le programme adapté, a suivi les mêmes objectifs?


Ainsi, dans une perspective de recherche, Audrey (coordonnatrice du Québec à gauche sur la photo) a enregistré les réponses de Jacinthe, Meggie (animatrices) et Maggie (coordonnatrice, à droite sur la photo).  Merci à vous toutes de votre collaboration!

Après la rencontre, Dominique, la nouvelle coordonnatrice du projet, a visité le musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh afin de se familiariser avec la culture Ilnu.


musee rotated

Le respect est une valeur importante dans la culture Ilnu.  Afin de marquer une considération particulière aux êtres vivants, dans cette langue, le verbe “je vois” se prononce différemment selon que le regard se pose sur des êtres vivants (regard de la femme en haut sur la murale) ou sur les choses inanimées (regard de l’homme en bas sur la murale).

murale rotated

Denis est le concepteur de la murale et guide au musée.  Merci à Denis et à toute l’équipe du musée, dont Denise et Louise, pour leur chaleureux accueil.


Mashteuiatsh est situé au bord du lac St-Jean.


La culture est aussi bien présente à l’intérieure de l’auberge Robertson. Un endroit bien sympathique pour passer un séjour agréable à Mashteuiatsh.



Visit to Mashteuiatsh

Last week I had the pleasure of travelling with Audrey Vezina to visit our partners in Mashteuiatsh. We drove through the beautiful forests of Quebec to Lac St. Jean where we met with Jacynthe Connolly, Maggie Robertson and Meggie Noël. The group will soon be completing the program and preparing for the visit from Gesgapegiag (see above blog posts). Our hosts showed us around Mashteuiatsh, which is a pretty community with views of the vast lake. We had the opportunity to meet carvers and sewers, visit the beach and view local crafts. Thank you to Mashteuiatsh and congratulations to them on their creativity and work.

Josh Moses


Les idées pour levée de fonds

Bonjour à tous,

Comme le temps file…….nous avons presque terminé nos ateliers. Il nous en reste 3 avant notre voyage à Gesgapégiag. Nous avons tous hâte de vivre cet échange culturel.

Comme nous venons juste de recevoir la version en français des entrevues, nous prendrons la prochaine session pour les compléter.

Les parents et les ados. Sont toujours intéressés et impliqués dans le programme; des liens solides se tissent entre eux. C’est bon de voir ça. Ils sont à préparer leur levée de fonds et ils planifient 3 activités pour ce faire :

  1. Marche au flambeau ( dans un champs avec les familles) en mai
  2. Marchothon en juin
  3. Dîner spaguetti en juillet.

Leur objectif est d’amasser $1000. Espérons qu’ils l’atteindront.

Pour le moment, nous nous préparons à recevoir nos invités de la nation Migmaq alors, ce sera un plaisir de les rencontrer en juillet prochain.


Dans la paix et l’amitié,

Jacinthe Connolly et l’équipe de Mashteuiatsh


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