A new program to help people improve their mental health by practicing traditional ways with Elders is in the works at the Inuvik Native Band office after a $4,000 donation was announced through the Field Law Community Fund program.

Inuvik Native Band Chief Robert Charlie and Band Manager Edward Wright enjoy some sun at the emerging Traditional Gathering Space just behind the band office. Wright said the band was planning to host traditional knowledge based counseling services and bush camps throughout the winter — weather permitting, of course.
Eric Bowling/NNSL photo

Band manager Edward Wright said the money would be used in conjunction with funding acquired through other programs, such as the New Horizons Seniors support program,  to set up a traditional knowledge-based mental health program using a recently completed cultural space behind the band office.

“While I was in a quarantine state, I thought it was a good time to work on something,” he said. “So I put a plan together to supplement part of the program we’re developing at the cultural space.

“The band intends to continue using that outdoor space throughout the winter. We want to engaged seniors and knowledgeable elders. We’ll have them available to work with individuals who want a more alternative form of counseling support.”

The sessions would be held in conjunction with bush camps being planned throughout the winter at the site. Counseling would be available on a one-on-one basis, with sessions being planned two to three times a week.

Wright said the main thing he was waiting on was for Wellness Support funding from the GNWT, which has been delayed because of Covid-19 restrictions limiting the amount of time government employees are in their offices and able to access important paperwork. He added the Band had also requested $5,000 from the United Way and for funding from the Dene Nation to help fund the program.

“It’s an amalgamation of different sources of funds to help us achieve that bigger goal,” said Wright. “We have a larger plan of developing this whole area for longer-term use. But there are a lot of details we have to work through.

“This whole Covid-19 business has really stymied a lot of the processes in getting contribution agreements completed, signed off and in place. But we have enough resources to keep moving forward on this area of the project.”

A core of seniors and Elders have volunteered to come out for the counseling when the program begins, but mental health services will be available to the community at a large, not just for band members. Wright said anyone who wanted to go through the tradition-based counseling would be welcome.

“We’re very inclusive. Even though we are band member specific, part of our vision overall is to be a fully involved community organization,” said Wright. “So we invite everyone to come and join us.”

Eric Bowling

Covering all things related to the Beaufort Delta, Eric Bowling is your editor for the Inuvik Drum. He came north after cutting his teeth in Alberta. Eric enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee.

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