Nineteen Indigenous participants are in the process of becoming trained wellness counsellors.
This is part of the Northern Indigenous Counsellor Training (NICT) program run by Jean and Roy Erasmus, owners of Dene Wellness Warriors, an Indigenous-run counselling service in Yellowknife. The NICT is being offered in partnership with Vancouver-based Rhodes Wellness College.
Jean says the NICT program will provide much needed and culturally appropriate services to underserved areas of the territory.
“I see it as our people helping our people,” Jean says.
The program managed to attract participants from Inuvik, Fort Resolution, Fort Smith, Behchokǫ̀, Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Simpson, Whatì, Aklavik, Norman Wells, Dettah and Ulukhaktok.
Jean says attracting participants from different communities was an objective.
“We want people from these communities to have their own trained healthy counsellors,” she says, “it’s an absolute need.”
If the 19 individuals complete the program, Jean says this could expand the number of Indigenous-run wellness services across the territory dramatically.
“So it means that now we’re going to have potentially another 19, who may want to have their own private practice,” Jean says.
The NICT announced it has an official theme song called Jean’s Dream.
Jean says the song was inspired by her clients who are on their own personal healing journey.
“For me, I think that this song is about hope. It’s about healing oneself,” Jean says.
Another major component of the song is the need for more Indigenous counsellors. The song discusses the program’s effort to begin the wellness journey by escaping the traumas of colonization and residential schools.
“In a couple of years and [the NICT participants] will be there to help Indigenous people who are hurting,” Roy explains.
Other themes in the song include being on the land with mentions of the Deh Cho River and Bear Mountain.
“Most Indigenous people have a real connection to the land… They love going out there just to live, for healing purposes,” Roy says.
The lyrics also discussed the northern lights.
“We know that in our culture, we believe that the Northern Lights present our ancestors,” Jean says.
The music is performed by Métis musician Donny Gladue, originally from Fort Chipewyan, Alta. The song was written collaboratively by Gladue, Jean and Roy.
The two-year NICT program kicked off on Sept. 28 and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is being run virtually.