To prevent violence against Indigenous women and support families, the Atikamekw Council of Manawan, in collaboration with INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) and various other partners, have announced the creation of the Mikinakw Community Wellness and Healing Circle.
Over the next five years, INRS will be a privileged partner in this project led by Thérèse Niquay, Director of Services and Community Projects for the Atikamekw Council of Manawan. Professor Carole Lévesqu
e, director of DIALOG
(Aboriginal Peoples Research and Knowledge Network), has been closely involved in designing and developing the project, which will get under way this summer.
The initiative will result in the creation of a new structure bringing together organizations that work with the local population and provide various services on gender-based violence in Manawan. Mikinakw’s primary mission will be fostering greater collaboration and dialogue between these organizations. The goal is to ensure that their actions and initiatives converge to provide integrated support for survivors of violence, improve living conditions and quality of life for the local population, and promote a common approach to community healing rooted in the Atikamekw culture and way of being.
Reviving traditional knowledge and practices
The approach seeks to revive traditional knowledge and practices as a means to restore a climate of trust conducive to the growth and development of all members of the community—children, youth, women, men, elders, and vulnerable persons alike. The goal is also to revitalize cultural practices and ways that provide support, guidance, healing, and growth to survivors and their families. A further hope is to revamp the role played by elders and cultural facilitators, promoting their active involvement and vigilance to help create safe spaces.
Ultimately, the project will serve as the basis for a new community healing model. “We’re hoping that the community really gets behind this project and understands that violence is a collective responsibility,” said Professor Carole Lévesque.
The creation and implementation of the Mikinakw Community Wellness and Healing Circle also comes in the wake of a long process recognizing the Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation’s responsibilities in the area of health and social services. The process, first launched in the late 1980s, continues today with innovative local initiatives in the field of youth protection. The Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation is the only Indigenous nation in Canada to enjoy complete autonomy in this area under the Système d’intervention d’autorité atikamekw.
INRS is providing additional independent funding for the project. Professor Lévesque and her team will oversee the development and implementation of knowledge co-construction and mobilization activities for the project in conjunction with Université Laval professor Bernard Roy and several members of the Mikinakw strategic committee.
As is the case with all projects undertaken under the auspices of DIALOG, the emphasis will be on ongoing participation and input from local stakeholders. The team will also document the voices and experiences of survivors of violence and their families. In addition, it will hold sharing workshops on traditional and scientific knowledge and conduct periodic deliberation and validation exercises. ♦