Commitment Sticks: A Reminder That Culture is Healing



Today, clients at Round Lake Treatment Centre in BC's Interior region each carry their own beautifully decorated commitment stick. Commitment stick teachings are woven into the centre's residential drug and alcohol addictions program as a part of their COVID-19 response, and as a symbol of clients' cultural and healing journeys. 


​The six-foot commitment sticks are a friendly reminder for clients to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients are presented with a commitment stick during the program's opening ceremony where they smudge themselves and the stick, and set an intention through prayer.


The pandemic has impacted Round Lake's intake numbers, but it is open to support people through the dual opioid and COVID-19 public health emergencies. The Centre's philosophy is “Culture is Treatment," and the in-house programs are grounded in cultural teachings.

“We have added even more grounding practices due to the dual public health emergency to help relieve some anxiety. The commitment stick is a big part of that," says Marlene Isaac, Executive Director of Round Lake Treatment Centre. “In addition to providing physical distancing reminders, it [the commitment stick] reflects the steps taken along the way to strengthen ourselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, and to guard against hurting ourselves and each other."

As clients decorate the stick throughout the program, the stick becomes their story. It not only reflects the importance of maintaining safety and appropriate boundaries, but also symbolizes accountability, courage, strength, and creativity.

“The commitment stick is a reminder of the COVID-19 guidelines that keep me safe, and reminds me that if I'm not well I can't help others. This is also true of my healing journey," says Byron, a client at Round Lake. 

Lea Louis, who is the Associate Director at the treatment centre, is credited with implementing this commitment stick concept, and continues to support clients to find culture on their healing journeys. In addition to this new cultural aspect of the program, Elders continue to provide teachings and counselling via Zoom, and clients still experience outdoor fires and on-the-land activities such as sage picking.

During the program's closing ceremony, clients join their sticks to form a tipi and tell the story of their own commitment stick to the group. “This is to symbolize community and how they can go back to their communities healthier," says Marlene, “[and have] the potential to help their communities become healthier."

Thank you to everyone at Round Lake Treatment Centre for helping individuals and communities protect themselves and heal.


Here are some reflections from Round Lake Treatment Centre's clients:

“The commitment stick has taught me I am creative and everything on my stick represents my story."

“I feel the commitment stick is a healing stick for me.  I look at it and feel peace and serenity. It feels powerful and is a totem of my recovery."

“The commitment stick means I have always have support. It feels powerful when I pray with it." “I can tell my story artistically, and I'm surprised of the significance that has had on me."

“I have been getting back to my culture and the commitment stick tells my story of my recovery, and all the teachings I was given as a child. I still remember most of them." 

“It means a lot to me because I've never worked on a commitment stick before. It's a work in progress."

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