We sat down with Sylvia Parke to learn more about her and her new position in the Supportive Recovery Program.

What is your name and role at Threshold Housing:

My name is Sylvia and I am the Cultural Wellness Worker in the Supportive Recovery Program at Threshold Housing.

My English name is Sylvia, my Haida name is ‘7stil aa yaa’ which translates into ‘always doing something.’ I am from the Haida nation on my Mother’s side, from the Saangaalth Stas’stas Eagle clan of Old Massett Village, Haida Gwaii. My Naanii (granmother) was Sylvia Storry (Kelly), oldest daughter of Godfrey and Victoria Kelly (Edenshaw). I am a grateful visitor on the unceded territory of the Lkwungen and Wsanec speaking people.

Who does your role support?

I mainly support Indigenous identifying youth in the Supportive Recovery Program.

I support youth with connecting/reconnecting with their culture, whether that is through attending cultural events, further exploring their culture, or integrating Indigenous wellness into their recovery programming.

What is Indigenous Wellness?

Indigenous wellness is very individualized and uses a holistic approach, it starts off by getting to know the youth and figuring out their existing connections to their culture. It is about deepening their connection to their culture. Our goal is to help youth improve their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and cultural wellbeing.  Traditional medicines vary amongst Indigenous cultures, but some of the traditional medicines that I like to incorporate are cedar, tobacco, sweet grass and sage. These can be used in various ways such as through smudging with abalone shells and eagle feathers.

When youth enter the program and begin their journey, we can burn medicines to clear the energy of the space. It can take out the negative energy, draw in new energy and it can help youth make the space their own, start fresh, and start off on a positive note. There are also positive physical health benefits from using traditional medicines.

Why is it important for youth to have access to your role?

There is so much research that shows how impactful being connected to your culture and using traditional practice plays in an individual’s recovery. We are serving youth whose parents and/or grandparents have potentially been impacted by Residential Schools, Sixties Scoop, Day Schools, etc. It is important to recognize that intergenerational trauma has impacted Indigenous youth even before they were born, to address their substance use we must begin by addressing their trauma.

Being in an urban area, there is not always chances for youth to access their culture or have an understanding of the culture they have come from. Some families with a lot of intergenerational trauma or displacement may not have a connection to their cultural practices. Not all programs have Indigenous specific roles who can support youth with integrating culture into their healing journey.

Urban youth can struggle with their Indigenous Identity because they may not feel connected to their cultural roots.

I am also here to assist Indigenous youth navigate western systems, like psychiatrists, counsellors, and health care practitioners that implement other types of healing practices than an Indigenous approach. It is important to empower youth through both knowledges, both world views – an Indigenous approach and a western approach.

Indigenous communities have processes in place to address trauma. The tools that are needed to heal intergenerational trauma are in the communities, they are in the youth, my job is to figure out how to empower youth to discover them.

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