Gathering Our Medicine

Healing and strengthening relationships between Indigenous youth and their kinship circle

Gathering Our Medicine: Nurturing Caregivers Intuition 

Families, extended families, and communities that guide Indigenous youth require relational, place and strength-based supports, education and resources that are culturally relevant and take into consideration the impact of colonization and inter-generational trauma (Battiste, 2013) (Nations, 2007). 

Through Indigenous ways of knowing and being, Gathering Our Medicine nurtures intuition (or felt sense of knowing) and confidence to provide for our youths’ often complex, sometimes perplexing relational and developmental needs. 


Gathering Our Medicine

Program Services

Encouraging Strengthened Relationships with Youth

Our intention is to support families, extended families, and communities through relationship, while encouraging strengthened relationships with youth (Neufeld G. a., 2004) as an essential aspect of inter-generational healing. 

Gathering Our Medicine encourages exploration and honouring of ways of knowing and being (place based rituals and rites of passage) (Cajete, 1994) most natural for the youth’s family and community of origin where possible. This is in contrast to the dominant medical and behavioural models of learning focused on teaching and shaping behaviour — which has proven unsuccessful for Indigenous people who have been impacted by trauma and the irreparable damage caused by a mass attempt at socialization through residential schools (Battiste, 2013).

Measuring Success through Relationship

Relational accountability (Wilson S. , 2008) guides all of Indigenous life including caregiving, teaching, learning, and healing encompassing every aspect of our journey prior to birth into the after-life (Cajete, 1994). 

In other words, our measure of success is based on the quality of relationship that develops and whether it provides the context in which our youth grow to their full potential and find their place and purpose as emotionally mature, whole beings (De Waal, 2009).


Adolescence: A Time of Transformation

Adolescence is a time of transformation requiring relational and developmental support (Neufeld G., Intensive III: Becoming Attached, 2011). 

Our youth need their families and communities to facilitate cultural rites of passage, stories, songs, dances and other culturally appropriate forms of emotional expression to support them during this transition to ensure relationships, resilience and feelings do not get compromised (Neufeld G. , Play and Emotion, 2017). It is a journey that takes great courage (Campbell, 1990). 

Gathering Our Medicine invites the kinship circle back from a landscape where “specialists and experts” may have played a central role in their child’s life and aims to empower them through their own culturally relevant practices, knowledges, and emotional supports — re-orienting them as the answer to their youth (G.A., 2017). 

The history of colonization, residential school, and inter-generational trauma have left a legacy of ruptures to relationships and the decimation of a life way that sustained Indigenous people since the long ago. Inter-generational healing is an essential part of reconciliation (Canada, 2012) of which families and communities play a central role and must be done in the context of the kinship circle.

Restoring the Kinship Circle

Gathering Our Medicine facilitates a restoration of the kinship circle so that parents, extended family, grandparents and other caring adults can begin to see themselves as the answer (as opposed to having all the answers) to their youth’s needs while developing the confidence to lead our youth in right relationship within their natural village of togetherness (Neufeld G. a., 2004). 

Developmental Science is now finally acknowledging what Indigenous people have always known (Nyman, 2014); that we are social, emotional and spiritual beings who thrive in relationship to each other, the land, and all of creation. We seek to find expression and meaning in all that we do and that if the conditions are right our developmental destiny unfolds spontaneously. 

Our youth will reach their potential as emotionally and psychologically mature beings who are resilient and bounce back from the inevitable stressors in life that cannot be avoided. In essence, the kinship circle is the place in which our youth are prepared to lead a courageous life in which they believe in themselves to navigate the emotional ups and downs with confidence — and without losing themselves (Campbell, 1990).

Honouring Our Elders and Knowledge Keepers

As we author this guide we cannot overlook the teachings that have been passed on to us by our beloved Elders and Knowledge Keepers whom we respect and cherish. Their words are full of love and their presence in our lives through the good and bad has made all the difference. The relationships we have with them will live forever as will their words of wisdom. 

The Gathering Our Medicine Program invites facilitators to draw on the wisdom of their elders and to develop relationships with them. What they have to share is invaluable and it is our responsibility to listen and to pass their teachings on to the next generation.

“Indigenous teaching is always associated with organic development. Indigenous teaching is planted like a seed then nurtured and cultivated through the relationship of teacher and student until it bears fruit. The nature and quality of the relationship and perseverance through time determine the outcomes of a teaching process.”

— Gregory Cajete 

“Sage, cedar, sweetgrass, tobacco. The sacred medicines. When you start your day with them, along with a prayer of gratitude, your energy becomes joined with the creative energy of the universe – and you may become a creator yourself if you choose and allow. That’s the power of medicine.”

—Richard Wagamese