Breaking the Cycle: Indian Day Schools and the Path to Trauma-Informed Healing


HOSW workshop presented a snapshot on the health impacts of Indian Day Schooling in Kahnawá:ke


Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean is a Wolf Clan woman of the Kanien'kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawà:ke. She delivered a workshop presentation on Indian Day Schools and Multigenerational Trauma at Healing our Spirit Worldwide. 

A second language learner, emerging Indigenous scholar and oral historian, her main focus is on Indigenous research, knowledge and advocacy. During the session, Wahéhshon shared a snapshot of the history and impacts of Indian Day Schooling in Kahnawà:ke, noting there is little data on Indian Day Schools, generally. 

While many from her community attended Residential Schools, the majority attended Indian Day Schools. Both schools share similarities; both left lasting intergenerational impacts, including loss of language, culture and identity. However the main difference is that children attending Indian Day Schools went home each day. 

To move forward, Wahéhshon emphasized the need to understand and address the causes of harm that affect health and well-being. She sought cultural teachings and language reclamation, as well as ways to examine history and share stories while avoiding re-traumatization. 

In order for Indigenous peoples to move beyond colonial trauma, Wahéhshon promotes cultural, land-based and trauma-informed pathways to healing. Community-centered approaches to research provide opportunities that empower communities to overcome collective traumatic experiences. 

As the workshop came to a close, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions. Many were appreciative of the presentation, with a handful of Elder participants sharing emotional stories of their lived experiences in attending. One Elder exclaimed that, “they [Indian Day Schools and Residential Schools] couldn't take the Indian out of her," to which the audience cheered and applauded.​

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