The Good Mind: Haudenosaunee models of Healing and Trauma

Gabriel Karenhoton Maracle - IIRC20
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Trauma is one of the spectres of colonization that continues to haunt Indigenous peoples. It manifests itself in different ways, from family dysfunction, substance abuse, violence, crime, to incarceration. Trauma impacts individuals, families, communities and nations. The Western paradigms of trauma and healing have been useful in addressing some of the issues surrounding colonization. With that said, models of healing and trauma use a holistic Indigenous model are needed to address issues affecting Indigenous communities in Canada. Indigenous healing perspectives move beyond ideas of individual focused healing and into a community-based healing model. It is critical to understand that Indigenous healing is a process that involves individuals and collectives equally. In the Haudenosaunee context, we have the concepts of Kan’nikonhrí:io (the Good Mind) and the Wake’nikonhrèn:ton (the Clouded Mind). Kan’nikonhrí:io is when our minds are clear from grief, anger, trauma and sorrow, which allows for good and clear decision making and actions. Wake’nikonhrèn:ton is when our minds are obscured by these emotions and feelings, which in turn can guide a person towards harmful and destructive behaviors and feelings; it is the manifestation and effects of trauma. The support and help from families and communities are critical to uncloud individuals’ minds and help them continue the long process of healing. The healing journey is deeply personal, but it is something that cannot be done alone. The Haudenosaunee perspective is based around the idea that one is healing from something, and critically, healing towards something. Much of the literature around healing, particularly in the context of colonization, discusses cultural revitalization as a critical component to the healing process. Cultural revitalization is critical to healing from the longstanding effects of colonization. It is equally important to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into how we understand the trauma of colonization and the healing from it. Reframing the entire process into an Indigenous context, rather than just folding Indigenous elements into Western healing paradigm can be a powerful vehicle for addressing trauma to a certain extent, but holistically healing from that trauma from an Indigenous perspective as was examined above in regards to Haudenosaunee traditions can provide space for healing to occur towards the Good Mind. It allows for more accurate ways of addressing the specific kind of living trauma that Indigenous peoples experience and can be a way for reintroducing Indigenous concepts and perspectives that we, as Indigenous people, may be disconnected from. The need to better understand Indigenous trauma-based healing is needed today more than ever due to issues around incarceration, substance abuse, and violence in Indigenous Nations across Canada. Indigenous perspectives for healing can be a powerful element in strengthening our resilience as peoples, communities, and nations. Due to the
longstanding effects of colonialism and government policies that continue to affect our peoples, healing, specifically healing in an Indigenous context, is critical our future.