Front line Children Services Workers learn from Indigenous elders out on the land

First Nation teepees pitched up in a wooded area in Kananaskis country set the tone for the Miskamaso, (mis-ka-ma-so), — Cree for "discover for yourself" — conference.

Miskanawah (mis-con-a-wa), in collaboration with Calgary Children's Services, hosted a two day training this week that brought together 20 Indigenous elders from across Alberta, B.C and Saskatchewan for in-teepee sessions.

Participants gathered together for a land-based conference that covered cultural knowledge, traditions and Indigenous teachings.

The land-based training aimed to have front-line workers discover themselves in the Indigenous way of life, support the healing and ongoing reconciliation.

Livia Manywounds

Miskanawah (mis-con-a-wa) Cree for "many little roads and paths" is a non-profit organization with a focus on Indigenous traditions — a leader in the social services field, working from a harm-reduction perspective.

Rare occurrence

According to organizers, it is rare for elders from Treaty 7 Territory and beyond to have come together for a single event to teach.

Siksika Nation Elder Ruth Scalplock facilitated a session on lateral violence.

"I have been doing this work for quite some time. It really gets people to look at themselves, their behaviour and how they treat others," Scalplock said.

Each in-teepee session focused on areas related to the children's services field, she said.

"This training is going to help participants to recognize those behaviours and attitudes and to really work with our people." 

Livia Manywounds

Miskanawah supports vulnerable children and youth in a holistic way throughout Calgary and the surrounding area.

Woods Homes Youth and Family Counsellors, Emma Perry and Faisal Qureshi participated in the conference.

 "I think it was a very positive experience" Perry said. "I don't think we have the training to include the cultural aspect."

She added that the training definitely increased their treatment with clients.

Faisal Qureshi said the conference was interesting — adding that overall, it was a peaceful experience.

"Compared to the conventional approach in the traditional classroom, this is really hands-on," Qureshi said. "We really immersed ourselves into the environment."

Livia Manywounds

Elders beyond southern Alberta

Miskanawah CEO Kirby Redwood said this is the second year but the first time it has been held outdoors with elders beyond southern Alberta.

"I think while it is about changing the story about forming, building relationships," Redwood said.

"We see the impact that it has with our children and families. The ones dealing with trauma — so having them come out here to be exposed to this is huge to their well-being and to us as service providers."

Children service workers also got the opportunity to camp, participate in ceremonies and healing lodges as part of their training.

Redwood said the conference was utilized to connect with other organizations as well.

"This is an opportunity to connect with funders, and service providers so that they may be better prepared and informed for serving indigenous children and families," he said.

The land-based education was open to anyone interested in exploring indigenous culture, said the CEO.

Miskanawah (mis-con-a-wa) in partnership with Calgary Children's Services is hosting a series of Indigenous teachings and opportunities for Children Services workers leading up to Aboriginal Awareness Week, June 17 – 22.