ɫokʷimas - You are Strong
Youth Suicide Intervention Initiative
The vision of this work was born from the passing of Tamika Mountain. Tamika was an 18 year old Namgis youth that passed away from suicide in the spring of 2021. She is one of our fallen warriors.
We want to honour her life by developing this program in the hope that this work will help other young people who are navigating the the spirit of suicide. Providing youth with tools and resources to utilize during times of crisis, or in the words of Vikki Reynolds, our "howling at the moon moments" are aptly demonstrated through our program.
Noticeably, most suicide prevention work is geared towards how to talk to someone who is suicidal rather than how to resist giving into the spirit of suicide within ourselves. Our program is specifically designed to work towards resisting the spirit of suicide within Indigenous youth.
In this initiative, suicidalilty is looked at as a natural human response to carrying the burdens of 500+ years of attempted and ongoing colonial genocide. Colonial pathologies are often internalized. By externalizing these traumas, Indigenous people are able centre the resiliency, wisdom, and connection to land and culture that was there prior to contact. That is always there. This anecdote aptly conveys the current repercussions Indigenous people face. In moving away from programming that looks at suicidality as an individual problem, one founded on individualized responsibility versus institutional responsibility, we aim to address Indigenous trauma as a societally collective problem.
"Tamika was a person full of life, she had one of the most contagious laughs, and she could easily light up the room. She was a social person, had a hilarious sense of humour, there was never a dull moment when Tamika was around.
She was the strongest person we knew; she had this way of carrying herself after everything she went through and was always the one to stand up and speak out.
She was my baby sister and and older sister; Tamika was a big-hearted person, a kind soul, with a beautiful smile."
- Miranda Mountain, Tamika's Sister
1. Decrease stigma surrounding the epidemic of suicidality for Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ
2. Educationally empower youth on the impacts of trauma on our minds, bodies, and spirits
3. Develop our abilities to utilize our Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ land based healing cultures, modalities, breath, and bodies as acts of resistance and self-regulation as an antidote to suicidality
4. Create a culture of belonging and safety for Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ youth
5. Utilize Likwala as a foundational part of our wellness towards reclaiming our identity
Meet The Team
Nalaga (Avis O’Brien) is a member of the Kaa’was Staa!stas Eagle Clan from the Village of K’yuusda in Haida Gwaii and the Geegilgum Namima of the Lig̱wiłda!x̱w people of Cape Mudge, one of the 18 Tribes of the Kwakwaka’wakw. Her role in the initiative is project lead, lead curriculum development & lead facilitator.
Nalaga utilizes a positive connection to bak̓wa̱m (Indigneous) identity, a̱wi’nak̕wa̱s (land), breath, body & culture to heal from the attempted and ongoing impacts of colonial genocide. Safety and trust is built through building a container of belonging for youth.
Kawaya7 (Ecko Aleck) is a Nlaka’pamux mother, artist and entrepreneur, daughter of a residential school survivor and cycle breaker for her two young sons. As a former at-risk youth she has learned to utilize sacred creativity, decolonization and land-based wellness to transition from surviving to thriving in art and business.
Ecko is mentoring the overall scope of the program in a close supportive role that passes on the teachings she’s learned through multiple Indigenous and business training opportunities. Ecko is a global facilitator of safe spaces who continuously strives to create a better world for the next 7 generations. She is creating a parallel social enterprise and program designed by Indigenous youth for Indigenous youth that will weave with this work for a larger scale pilot project and mobile studio build.
Erika Doehring is a Gwich’in, Dene, and German Granddaughter raised on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Kwikwetlem, Musqueam, Squamish, Stó:lō and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
She is involved with the project for development coaching, marketing and communications. Erika uses art, theatre and creativity to create safer places to process trauma. She brings extensive knowledge to the team around marketing and sales as well as decolonizing program development.
Trauma Informed Yoga Teacher
Ivy Richardson is Nuxalk, Gusigmukw and of mixed European descent. Her traditional name is Snomochadice. She was named after a prophetess from her family's village in Bella Coola. Her role in the initiative is to facilitate trauma informed yoga practices. Ivy uses a combination of physical movement, breathwork and meditation as tools to support healing and empowerment. Her work always begins with safety.
Kirsten Dobler ( Q̓aq̓uƛ̓amas ) has ancestry from the Liǧʷiɫdax̌ʷ of the We Wai Kai Nation, and also has mixed European descent. Kirsten is a language teacher at the Kʷak̓ʷala Lik̓ʷala program in in Campbell River. She is currently finishing her Masters Degree in Indigenous language revitalization at the University of Victoria. Kirstens role with the initiative is language teacher and language consultant. She creates trust in her work through the use of Lik̓ʷala , connecting gəngənanəm (children) to a part of their identity that was taken during the process of colonization.
Ferrin Yola Willie
Clinical Counselor / Language Consultant
Yola (wind), Ferrin Yola Willie is Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw & Haíɫzaqv and gratefully living & learning in Snuneymuxw on the ancestral lands of the Hul'q'umi'num' language. Yola holds a Masters in Indigenous Counselling and is in her second year of a Phd program in Indigenous language revitalization. Her doctoral pursuits have been a way to make space for learning her language of Kwak̓wala and to promote wellness as part of ancestral language reclaimation. She hopes to support Indigenous healing by creating safe spaces for encouraging ancestral language learning.
Clinical Curriculum Consultant
Riel Dupuis-Rossi, (MA, MSW, RSW), is a therapist of Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk), Algonquin, and Italian descent. Riel grew up in their traditional territories, off reserve in Hamilton, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec. Since 2011, Riel has been providing decolonising and culturally-centred trauma therapy to Indigenous individuals, couples, families, and groups in Vancouver, British Columbia, located in the unceded and occupied Homelands of the Squamish, Tsleil Waututh, and Musqueam Nations. Riel’s role in the initiative is to support the development of the curriculum as a Clinical Consultant.
James Quatell is a Hereditary Chief of the Weiwaikum First Nation. He is a recognized and highly respected in the Kwakwaka’wakw community as an Elder and Culture keeper. He has been working as an Elder with a variety of organizations from across Vancouver Island for the past 20 years.
As one who embodies traditional ceremony, leadership and cultural knowledge as a daily practice, he has been sharing teachings on health and wellness with the John Howard Society, Vancouver Island Health Authority and Ministry of Children and Family Development. He is also the In-House Elder for the residential drug and alcohol treatment facilities Tsow-tun-Lelum and Kackaamin family Development Centre.
James is an advocate for the Truth and Reconciliation Process and has delivered numerous workshops on the history of residential schools. He has been active with Vancouver Island Health Authority initiatives for the past 7 years, including facilitating workshops around cultural safety. James is an instrumental part of providing teachings on cultural teachings within the health care field.
He has been married to his wife Lorna for 45 years, has 1 daughter and 1 grandson. He is a leader in the community and his life’s work is deeply rooted in living a cultural life.
Lia Rosemary Skiljaadee Jaada K’yaaltsii (Hart) is a Nang k’uulas guujang.ga descendant of Haida-Colonial mix ancestry, raised between Haida Gwaii and the Unceded Coast Salish territories on the mainland. She identifies with K’uuna (Skedans Ravens) and uses life experience pertaining to suicide, mixed with her training and experience in mental health and suicide prevention training and reserach, and work and training in youth suicide prevention to be able to add to the curriculum.
Week 1: Creating a Culture of Belonging & Cedar Brushing Ceremony
Week 2: Suicidality as a Symptom of Attempted & Ongoing Colonial Genocide
Week 3: Impacts of Trauma, Awi'nak̕ wa̱s Based Healing & Trauma informed Yoga
Week 4: Neurodecolonization & Trauma informed Yoga
Week 5: Identifying our Activators & Trauma informed Yoga
Weeks 6: Weaving our wellness basket & Developing new strategies in place of self harm
Week 7: Weaving our wellness basket & Developing our Solidarity Team
Week 8: Weaving our wellness basket & Polyvagal Theory
Week 9: Drumming, Singing & Dancing as Medicine
Week 10: Cold Water Cleanse Ceremony
Youth Employment Opportunities
Our hope is that this programming will inspire and empower youth in a way that instills self-motivation in the education of peripheral youths. Furthermore, upon program completion, youths will have the opportunity for paid peer-training in order to keep the workshop going.
This 10 week cohort will offer 10 Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ youth (ages 13 - 18) a safe space to engage in healing and empowerment work surrounding suicidality. We will meet once per week for 3 hours per session. The 10 sessions will weave together Liǧʷiłdax̌ʷ Land based healing practices, educational impacts on trauma, suicide prevention strategies, Likwala language, trauma informed yoga, cedar weaving, drumming, singing, and dancing as self regulation strategies in place of self-harm and suicide.
Train the Trainer
Our vision is to have the framework we build become translatable to other Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. Any Nation will be able to use this framework and then hire facilitators, Elders, language speakers, and knowledge keepers to deliver this predominantly youth program within their territory.
With gratitude for those who inspired this curriculum and are leading the way in this work, please look at the following:
Transformation Talks Riel-Dupuis-Rossi & Vikki Reynolds
Transformation Talks Webinar 1 Sep.10.20: Working therapeutically with suicidality: beyond risk assessment and hospitalization
"Suicide and Stuff" Episode 38 Interview Vikki Reynolds
Reynolds, V. (2016). Hate Kills: A social justice response to “suicide”. In White, J., Marsh, J., Kral, M., & Morris, J. (Eds.) Critical Suicidology: Towards creative alternatives. Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press.
International Journal of Indigenous Health - The violence of colonization and the importance of decolonizing theraputic relationships : The role of the helper in Centring Indigneous wisdom - Riel Dupuis Rossi