Indigenous Ways of Knowing at Highbanks

The Cause

We are requesting funding to support our Indigenous programming servicing the clients of Highbanks Society and the community sector. Currently 80% of our participants identify as part of the BIPOC community with 70%+ identifying as Indigenous. Our Family Support Program Lead identifies as Indigenous and has created meaningful partnerships with Elders from Treaty 6 & 7 to support access to culturally appropriate programs, ceremonies, and feasts. Additionally, we supplement our clients mental health supports with access to traditional healing practices and ceremony in their daily service delivery. Our Indigenous programming has gained recognition in the community and we have been approached to provide diversity training and webinars to help professionals in the community understand Indigenous service delivery and how to support these practices in their own program models. In order to continue to provide these educational services to individuals and the sector we require funding to seek support from Elders, provide cultural experience, and materials for programming services.
Intergeneration trauma experienced through the effects of colonization impacts our Indigenous families on a daily basis. There is fear of ongoing systemic racism and it’s affect that this will have on their own children. We combat these fears by providing one to one support to a participant with their choice of an Elder of Knowledge Keeper they identify most with. Additionally, we strive to use cultural practices in our daily interactions with our clients. An example of this is by staff smudging with a client to help re-center themselves, and then focusing on an area of the medicine wheel teachings that a client can identify as a short-term goal to feel safe, and comfortable again. However, the impacts of colonization don’t stop there. We provide a safe space for clients to share their stories, and advocate for change amongst societies understanding of Indigenous peoples. We do this by having our clients help lead activities in advocacy for social problems that are important to them such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Orange shirt day and the impact of residential school in their own families. By providing these opportunities for our clients to share we are effectively starting to heal their trauma, and that of their children.

Who Will it Benefit?

Clients & their children, volunteers, staff members, practicum students, and professionals in the community.
Highbanks Society serves single young women between the ages of 16-24 yrs of age who are pregnant or parenting and working towards completing their education. We strive to provide deeply subsidized rent removing all barriers to complete their education by including all utilities, Internet, and cable for their homes. We are unique in that our housing initiative combines a programming and case management component that focuses on deepening resiliency by providing life skills training to increase the capacity for stable housing, and successful tenancies by deepening independence. We also combine a multi-disciplinary approach to our service model which incorporates individualization, self-determination, with a highlight of also meeting our clients mental health needs through our free access to counselling supports. Our program outcomes show that individuals who graduate from the Highbanks housing program have been successfully diverted from homelessness and poverty, and have become self-reliant, without needing to access ongoing social system supports. We attribute this success to our training in financial literacy, personal development, cultural inclusion, and community building initiatives. Our new model has incorporated Indigenous ways of knowing into our daily work. We have connected with Elders to provide teachings to our youth that move us into our program goal of practicing reconciliation. Each of our programs incorporate Indigenous ceremony and culture through sharing circles, smudging, feasts, drumming, and a variety of other programs centered on Indigenous Worldview. Feedback from our clients indicates that they would like to continue to deepen their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous culture, and appreciate the opportunities it provides to stop the cycle of intergenerational trauma. Our community of youth are learning to appreciate and honor Indigenous heritage, and culture, as we recognize that we are helping to grow the next generation of leaders in our community. This programming is vital in helping to address the sectors concerns on systemic racism, and teaches cultural inclusion and resilience. This training is also extended to our community as we provide educational webinars to professionals, volunteers, staff members, and other clients of partner organizations creating an inclusive environment of diverse populations.