Kahnawake recovery walk fosters connection

·3 min read

With requests for addiction and counselling services spiking during the course of the pandemic, the Wellness Action Team (WAT) went all out for this year’s International Overdose Awareness Day event.

“We just had a lot of people struggling during this time,” said coordinator Kara Diabo, a prevention worker at Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS), which was also responsible for the event.

The Walk Towards Recovery aimed at breaking down the stigma of addiction and helping those seeking recovery to connect with resources and one another.

“I think bringing public awareness to this is just showing that it’s okay to ask for help, that we have a lot of people in the community that want to help others,” Diabo said. “We have a lot of people that have been there and even want to share.”

While the purpose of the event outside the Kahnawake Sports Complex could hardly have been more serious, it featured many of the highlights one might expect to find at a fun-filled community festival - a free BBQ lunch, prizes, a photo booth, a video-game trailer, and a PA system blasting pop hits.

Participants were invited to walk the perimeter of the soccer field, a nod to the connection between mental health and physical activity.

At the same time, booths gave community organizations the opportunity to educate attendees about counselling services and even employment opportunities.

The day also included words from community members in recovery who participated in an Angel Horn photoshoot aimed at bringing awareness.

“We wanted to have a big gathering because we know that connection is something that’s really important for people in recovery or who are struggling with substance abuse,” Diabo said.

“Looking back, when I started my own recovery 10 years ago, you’d never see something like this,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief Ryan Montour, who also sits on the KSCS board of directors.

“This, for me, is eye-opening and amazing that the community can celebrate an event like this,” he said.

“For the community members still suffering out there, the stigma is gone,” said Montour. “There’s no shame in saying you have a problem. There’s no shaming in today’s day and age to ask for help. Asking for help is one of the main important steps that you should take for yourself.”

“I think it’s important because it raises awareness, and it promotes healing among Native people, giving them hope and showing them they’re not alone,” said Mitchell Skidders, an addictions counsellor at Onen’tó:kon Healing Lodge in Kanesatake.

The healing lodge set up a resource tent and brought along a group of clients in active recovery in the program, which is culturally-based and focuses on trauma.

“Everybody’s different. Everybody’s at their own spot in recovery,” said Corey, a musician and retired marine who has been working toward recovery for years. He is in active recovery and is among those receiving treatment from the healing lodge.

“Being here is helping, just being here. Walking around and meeting people. That’s helping. That’s recovery,” said Corey.

He spoke of the towering pines surrounding the healing lodge. “Those pines, if you watch them, they sway when the wind comes, and when the storms come, they sway, and they lean into each other, and they support each other,” he said.

“It’s a good example for what we do in recovery as a community.”

Corey said he and others in active recovery at the healing lodge were enthusiastic to come. He began by visiting every booth and meeting as many people as he could.

“I think recovery is a very beautiful thing, and it’s good to know you’re not alone,” he said. “It’s good to know the world is still capable of helping.”


Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door