Employing a Harm-Reduction Approach Between Women and Girls Within Indigenous Familial Relationships

Abstract

It is important to recognize that experiences of racial and gendered violence are a sad legacy of colonialism. The experiences of historical trauma are on-going. These affect the mental and physical wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Addressing historical trauma through community-informed practices is central to creating space for meaningful change. This paper outlines results from a seven-week activity-based research workshop conducted on three separate occasions with urban-based First Nations and Metis women and girls (aged 8–12). Using a decolonizing theoretical framework, this paper examines data collected within three specific arts-based activities: empowerment bracelets, “I’m proud of you” charm bracelets and “Who I am” pictures. Women were hesitant to discuss future plans, as many were not confident that their daughters would be in contact with their maternal families when they become teenagers. Girls observed and mimicked the thoughts and actions of their mothers, step-mothers, aunts, older sisters and grandmothers. They demonstrated the role they already play within the discourse of what it means to be female living within their communities. This paper concludes with the implicit harm reduction approach women and girls used when exploring the impacts of trauma while envisioning a healthier future.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Participants wrote words in Morse code on a piece of paper to use as a template. Participants were not asked to put their names on the paper, although they were asked to hand in the adult and child papers together. Therefore, name attribution for this activity was not possible.

  2. 2.

    The sixties scoop defines a period from the 1950’s to the 1960’s within Canadian history where children were forcibly removed from their families and either placed within the child welfare system or placed for adoption either within Canada or internationally. The rationale for removal was often vague, and not a reflection of true safety concerns (Blackstock 2011; Dubinsky 2010; Johnston 1983; Strong-Boag 2011).

  3. 3.

    Voice attribution was not possible, due to background noise that affected the quality of the recording.

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Cooper, E., Driedger, S.M. & Lavoie, J.G. Employing a Harm-Reduction Approach Between Women and Girls Within Indigenous Familial Relationships. Cult Med Psychiatry 43, 134–159 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11013-018-9603-x

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Keywords

  • Harm reduction
  • Historical trauma
  • Intergenerational colonial trauma
  • Indigenous
  • Families