When everything is taken from you, all you are left with are your words. That’s why S.A. is using the power of safe community space, dialogue, and care to work to heal generations of hurt.
S.A. lovingly creates handmade wool bags called “kaskahpicihan.” That word in Nêhiýawewin means “a medicine bundle.” Each one contains items like Red Rose Tea, pemmican, and Native-made self-care items—tangible pieces to help honor a journey to healing.
“Pieces of myself,” S.A. called them. “Culturally, I’m not allowed to share things from other nations’ practices, so these are truly a reflection of who I am and what has helped me heal.”
Those pieces are carefully packaged into community care kits and sent to people who are carrying the weight of forced assimilation. Some of the packages have made it into the hands of Indigenous people from as far as northern Quebec and Southern California.
S.A., who is Nêhiýaw and Michif, feels the weight of being disconnected from their community through forced assimilation. S.A. and their family are survivors of the residential school, non-consensual adoption, and foster care systems.
During the Sixties Scoop era, Indigenous children were forcefully and non-consensually removed from their families. It was a continuation of the Native American boarding schools in the United States and the Canadian residential school system that began in the early 19th century. During these efforts, Indigenous elders were taken away as children and unspeakably abused—so much was lost to ethnic persecution.
“It’s very hard to find yourself in a world of colonization,” S.A. said. “I am 38, and I have only found two of my cousins in my adult years because of this genocide.”
As S.A. reconnects with their community and relatives they spent most of their life without, while working through their personal history, they are trying to help others do the same. They know the loneliness that comes with that journey.
Inside each community care kit they send, S.A. adds a handwritten letter from a community member. Even if the author and the reader have never met, they’re linked by what they share, what they lost, and also the hope of what they can become. The words let them know they are seen, loved, and worthy—that their experiences are valid.
This process of “kakichihiwewin,” or healing/consoling through words, is one of the means S.A. focuses on to create safe spaces for Indigenous people through the nonprofit Seeding Sovereignty and The Kakichihiwewin Project.
S.A. hopes others learn that the legacy of trauma Indigenous people face can leave them feeling isolated. But by harnessing the power of words through letters, healing circles and talking circles, and other expressions of support, they can help community members find solace and reclaim some of what was taken from them without consent.
Fuel S.A.’s journey with Seeding Sovereignty to support their people and help them heal.
Featured Photo: The Kakichihiwewin Project by Seeding Sovereignty