Bringing Life to a Healing Program


​Losing their lands didn’t mean the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations lost their connection to culture – and now that culture is their healing


​​​“My goal is to work myself and my team out of a job."

That's how Head Healing Facilitator of the Ḵ̓wa̱la'sta Healing Centre, Crystal Walkus, ended her afternoon presentation at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide.

She began the presentation with a brief timeline of the traumatic experiences inflicted on the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations that began with their forced ​relocation to a reserve near Port Hardy, British Columbia.

Decades of intergenerational trauma stemmed from that one event. It caused families to be removed from their land, culture and traditions, food sources, and even their burial sites.

To rebuild their connection to culture and the land, the community decided they needed a healing centre to begin their collective healing journey.

In 2019, they took that first step to healing by starting a healing camp to reconnect with their land and culture – a connection that was severed during the forced relocation. Then in 2020, work began to secure funding to develop a trauma healing program. The program is seen as a way to bring families back to where they came from as a way to heal and is reflected in the name of the healing centre – Ḵ̓wa̱la'sta – which means “Waters of Life".

Walkus highlighted the variety of programs the Ḵ̓wa̱la'sta Healing Centre offers, many of them in partnership with other Nations or community groups.

She says Indige​nous peoples face barriers the moment they are born so these programs are designed to be as accessible as possible.

Historically, healing traditions and programs have often required a certain amount of time of abstinence or sobriety prior to participation – time that people looking for support can ill afford. At the Ḵ̓wa̱la'sta Healing Centre, a person who is using substances is only asked not to be in an altered state of mind in order to participate, so they can get the help they need when they need it, and most importantly, when they've decided they're ready for it. They are also open to anyone who identifies as a Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw community member. The programs offer a safe place for participants to be open and vulnerable. 

Despite being dispossessed of their land because of colonialism, the Ḵ̓wa̱la'sta Healing Centre symbolizes the strength and resiliency of the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations' people as they continue to look towards their culture and traditions to guide their collective, long-term healing journey.​​​

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