In 2004-2005, Ruby Isaac was hired to conduct a Community Needs Research Project for the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations. Below is a list of the recommendations that Ms. Isaac included in the report, based on surveys and interviews with community members, staff members, and stakeholders over the course of the assessment:
There were many insightful suggestions for strategies to address the issues. Again the suggestions include the same five core categories as in the previous section of this report. An additional category has been added to give voice to the community’s insights concerning possible organizational strategies.
A strategy that is raised numerously is to develop a system for back and forth communication for all community members. Through the process of questionnaires and interviews there developed a sense of there being four basic sectors that were referred to in the community: community members, Chief and Council, staff, and Leadership or Management. A number of respondents suggested that there be councils or committees developed for people to share their concerns and ideas with each other (see "how committees work” Appendix D-1). "Community needs to have input in how we heal. [We need] a program that’s responding to the community as a whole… by a circle of community members.” (Interview with Elder).
Through the use of councils or committees to discuss topics of common interest, the community has a forum for developing inner resources, shared or new ideas, and a sense of connection and support to address specific areas. For example, a policy committee would review the values and beliefs that direct the goals. In the Namgis website, an example of their board and committee structures are present (Appendix D-2). The goals would then be reflected in the policies developed. And elders and traditionalist councils would be called upon to assist with redeveloping and/or identifying the traditional values and beliefs of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw. The advisory council for Surrounded by Cedar also offers the process for how their councils were formed (Appendix D-3). From the work of these groups, the policy board has the traditional values and beliefs to be the foundation of the policies that are developed.
Another communication enhancer comes from the community newsletter. This is identified as a way to increase the communications with the community, with the emphasis on putting the information out ahead of time (Questionnaire response).
Without a strong communication system, the Community has found the issue of trust to be a great concern. However, their strategies indicate the desire to resolve this issue. Many identified communication as a close ally to building trust, and suggested that "keeping people informed” (Interview) is a way of building trust.
Another shared strategy (8 respondents) that was suggested for building trust is to have chief and council work with leadership to discuss and make suggestions about specific topics. For example, council members holding specific portfolio’s get more involved and informed about that area.
Developing system that allows support to be received and given. For example, the expected role of the staff is to support the community members, the expected role of leadership/management is to support staff, the expected role of Chief and Council is to support leadership/management. Yet, often times the important role of the community to support the staff, leadership, chief and council to do the work they have made a commitment to do, is forgotten, and perhaps the strength of its effects minimized. This responsibility to support one another is a shared role, and is a traditional responsbility of every community member, despite the position they hold in their community.
Again, Relationship building is closely connected to communication and trust building. Any effort to address any of these strategies will also affect the other two areas. In an effort to rebuild relationships, the community has to say this:
There needs to be acknowledgements of the efforts of individuals in the community. It is traditional for us to uplift each other. We have a lot of talent in our community, and one way that was identified to do this was to redevelop the community profile. Identify who carries what strengths and gifts in the community. This strategy not only addresses issues of relationship building, but also benefits any community development initiatives. These in turn could connect to the future plans for training, education, and leadership mentoring.
There were so many ideas from the respondents about how to re-establish human connection. For ease of the reader, these ideas will be put into list form:
· Elders especially could be contacted daily to see how they are doing.
· Build a friendship/relationship, working relationship with community members so they feel positive/good about helping/volunteering.
· Listen to each other’s ideas about ways to address common areas of concern.
· Establish a staff and community volunteer program to build relationships with youth. E.g. Baseball team coaches, canoe club, day camp for the kids, etc. to develop youth’s sense of belonging in the community, and a way to interact with them in a positive way.
· Have coffee drop-in in the mornings as a way to connect with community on social level.
· More community gatherings.
· Develop means for the four above mentioned sectors to meet regularly to get ideas and gain a better understanding of one another.
· A youth futures vision, to emphasize to everyone that the future for the youth in our community can be as good as anyone’s.
· A community agreement of respectful interaction. To agree to basic common courtesy for ALL people at all times, despite how you think or feel at the time.
· Community focused intervention strategy when responding to community needs or crisis. To build this strategy on community traditions and culture, based on respect and honor, without judgement.
· Relationship strategy that allows village, staff, leadership, Chief and Council to enjoy each other, and what the community has to offer.
· Support is key for everyone, but even more so for the younger generation.
· See the value of all age groups. For example, utilize Elders for culture and the young people for business ideas, development, and their gift of a stronger connection to and interest in today’s technology.
The number of strategies and ideas for building relationships in the community present a clear picture of the shared desire for the community to have things better. This commonality is another area that is deserving of great appreciation for this community, and should give a strong sense of hope for all interested stakeholders. The more the community takes ownership of this healing process, the stronger and more succesful it will become in every sense of the word.
When identifying conflict resolution, the issue of creating a safe environment is important. In an effort to address the issue of conflict respectfully, one Elder states that it is important to "Stop, look and think before you open your mouth” (Interview) in order to remember not to hurt or disrespect others when speaking about things that are important and valuable. Some specific strategies given by the community include:
· "Have an outsider come speak on bigger issues. These problems don’t only occur here but all across Canada.”
· "Close the Outside world from this community while we do this to concentrate on who WE are.”
· Find a way to discuss differences without hurting each other. E.g. put jealousy aside and cooperate more.
· Celebrate differences.
· Learn more respectful ways to deal with conflict so we don’t have to keep hurting each other.
· Hire a counsellor that can deal with issues of anger and abuse, grief and trauma from Residential schools, etc.
However, this is an area that will continue to be a challenge for the community, as the frustration level presented seems quite high, and comments are often personalized due to the fractionalized state of the community.
The desire for all respondents to have their traditions and culture incorporated in the services they receive and give has been quite prominent in the responses from everyone. Although there were participants who did not know enough about the traditions and culture to speak to specifics, there is a desire to learn more and share more. "A cultural component needs to be integrated in Family Services.” (Interview)
· Find avenues for the Elders to be more involved in teaching the members. This desire has been consistent and powerful.
· Build a Big House! This strategy was raised by 4 participants, with one explaining it as a means of "Returning to Tradition – When you tell the Elders you are doing it, they will really smile” (Interview)
· Stronger connection to traditional practices/Culture is also a desire from many of the recipients, although, few could identify how that would actually look.
· Begin introducing into community the healing practices and teachings Again, although the desire is there, the knowledge of what this means is limited.
· Let the people tell their stories – Healing and education.
· Singing, Dancing, Language classes need to happen beyond Elementary School – the general community wants to learn this too.
Although it is unclear how incorporating a traditional and cultural system would look for many, the wish for this to happen has been consistenly expressed by almost all participants.
To appreciate the necessity of reviewing the present systems, it is important to understand the impact of the different systems we use. Whereas the tradtional and cultural system of this community supports the commonly expressed desire to face each other to heal, the Western system is met with resistance because it is seen as teaching the community to turn away from each other to heal. There were a number of examples given by members for ways to change the system this community is working under for their own healing. The following is a list of what the respondents have to say on the matter:
· The "White way” is to turn away from family to heal (individualism). One interviewee told the story of how a family member was strongly encouraged to do this, as a way to address healing, and the conflict of this individualistic value to that of this traditional social value being greater than he could bear. The interviewee sees this conflict as the reason the family member committed suicide.
· Address the dependant mindset. This refers to the idea that people have gotten used to having others do for them (also known as "enabling”), rather than supporting them to take their own power to make change.
· Encourage more Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw band members to get Training and be hired to work with our own people.
· Include Community in developing a youth leadership initiative. E.g. invite community members who share youth concerns to create a way to guide youth by sitting with youth to point out possibilities of their future.
· Approach regional DIAND to support us. Look to them for funding support to address the core issues and healing initiatives for the community.
Evidence show that the historical efforts of the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw people to seek healing for their community is beyond reproach. The community has studied and learned much about what is needed to develop programs. What seems to be missing in this process of healing, which is the foundation, or core work that is required to move forward from the areas of concern that has held this community in a state of frustration and stagnancy.