New initiative helps indigenous people reconnect with community, culture – National

Warning: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

A new initiative designed to help indigenous people disconnected from their communities return home is launched on BC’s Sunshine Coast.

It was co-created by Charlene SanJenko, who was adopted at a young age. Her non-Indigenous foster parents have decided not to tell her that she is First Nations. SanJenko believes they made the best decision they knew at the time.

“It wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I started digging into my heritage,” SanJenko told Global News.

Her research began after a fundraiser in Gibsons, BC in 2015. At the community’s public market event, she was given a wooden paddle with indigenous designs and says the moment she first held it, she had a visceral reaction. that prompted her to explore the questions she carried with her throughout her life.

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“I felt a tremendous wave of emotion wash over me. I think it was my ancestors calling to me through that paddle. That was the night I tried to prove what I intuitively think I know, so I embarked on the journey of paperwork and proving my status,” she said.

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A three-year process that began with her adoption certificate which she claims has her mother’s name, age (16) and the word “Indian” underneath.

“I remember reading that and I really just remember relief being the feeling that came, like ‘I know,'” SanJenko said.

SanJenko is one of more than 150 children taken from Splatsin First Nation between 1960 and 1980, during the Sixties Scoop. That was a significant portion of her homeland’s population, she says, leaving just 300 people in the community.

It sparked a movement called the Indian Child Caravan, led by a man who had also been taken from that same community as a child.

“I remember running away from the foster homes and running home to my mother,” said Wenecwtsin, known to many as Wayne Christian.

“The RCMP would show up and bring me back. At that time I was 13 years old. I’ve really thought about taking my life. In that process I lost all hope. I turned that into anger as a teenager, I ended up in jail and jail,”

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Charlene SanJenko and former Secretary Tribal Chief Wayne Christian (Wenecwtsin).

Thanks to reGEN Media

In his early twenties, Wenecwtsin himself was a foster parent and took care of his brother. He still relives the unimaginable moment on a cold December day when he discovered that his dear brother had died by suicide with his gun.

“When you talk about things like this, it lives in your head. My story is like thousands of our people scooped up across the country,” Wenecwtsin said with tears in her eyes.

A year later, his mother, who survived the former Kamloops Indian residential facility, died after a battle with treatable cancer.

“My mother was a child when she went to that institution.”

Click to Play Video: 'Healing Power of Pow Wow Helps Indigenous Man Overcome Trauma'

Healing Power of Pow Wow Helps Indigenous Man Overcome Trauma

Healing Power of Pow Wow Helps Indigenous Man Overcome Trauma

That’s a big part of why the former Secwépemc Tribal Kúkpi7 (Chief) – who has gone beyond the traumatic reactions of his teenage years through cultural healing practices – has now spent most of his adult years advocating for Indigenous children.

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“The [Sixties Scoop] was a big push for us to take control of our own child welfare and enact our own legislation. We are currently the only one in Canada doing what we do,” he said.

“If we didn’t do what we did in 1980, our community would be like everyone else because there are more children in care in the state now than when residential schools were at their peak.”

Seeing his work, SanJenko contacted him last year. Now the two team up to help others trying to reconnect with their communities by hosting a healing event in the same place in Gibsons where her journey home began.

Read more:

After seven terms, former Splatsin First Nation chief talks legacy, future

The event is called For the children and included a listening circle for participants, watching a short film and announcing a feature film called Elderly project.

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“We’re looking at how we can begin a process of opening people up to the possibilities of what they can do for themselves, not just for our own people, but for Canadians as a whole, because healing isn’t limited to us,” Wenecwtsin said. . .

This fall they are also planning to launch a project called Our nation is healingwith a public appeal to all who want to walk with them on the path of healing.

“I am very curious to make an appeal to others who may be looking for this journey of homecoming. It could be from that community or from others who just don’t know where to start,” SanJenko said.

“Our intention is for our short film to become a business card where we can walk into a community, show each community and a film, share a story and have conversation or dialogue.”

Click to play video: 'Program aims to help Indigenous people reconnect with birth communities'

The program aims to help Indigenous people reconnect with birth communities

Program aims to help Indigenous people reconnect with birth communities – June 20, 2022

A full circle moment for two survivors sent on very different paths and now coming together to help others get home.

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“That’s how you change the world through the kids,” Wenecwtsin said.

Wenecwtsin says that with classes resuming for the new school year, it’s especially important to keep in mind what we learn and how we play in a role that changes the story into a more truthful one.

“I was going to study history and become a history teacher, but they didn’t learn anything about our people, so it’s about us helping to rewrite that story about our history,” he said.

Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, free, and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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