Turtle Island Native Network

Indian Residential School

(formerly the Provincial Residential School Project)

Click to Connect with the Indian Residential School SURVIVORS Society

Healing Principles

Healing means coming to terms with the things that happened in your past so that they don't interfere with your everyday life. Healing involves maintaining one's balance: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The principles of safety, responsibility, respect and cooperation are basic to healing.


  • safety is the experience of being free from physical, mental, spiritual and emotional threat; a safe environment is needed for healing
  • experiencing fear is part of each individual's life experience, but living in constant fear of abuse or neglect is damaging to healing
  • safety is an individual, family and community responsibility


  • responsibility means that you are in charge of your life choices and actions and that you are willing to learn and change how you think about yourself and your behaviour
  • responsibility means understanding that the wounds received, as a child at the hands of adults, were not your fault; it also means that healing in your adult life is up to you
  • passing of these wounds onto others, by blaming or hurting, interferes with healing


  • respect is the treatment of others and ourselves in a 'safe' manner; and the acceptance that each adult is responsible for their own choices
  • respect for an individual's choice of how to heal or to protect themselves from what they fear is as important as respecting individual beliefs about the impact of residential schools; lack of respect for these different views has divided families and communities


  • cooperation involves people coming together to accomplish goals of healing which are not possible for one person alone
  • cooperation requires a balance of safety, respect, and responsibility
  • cooperation builds on communal strength to support healing through a balance or sharing of power in the family and community

For healing, it is important to take the time to celebrate your survival. You have made it this far despite the things that happened to you. Acknowledge and praise yourself for the healing that you have already done.

What Resources are available?

If you ignore painful feelings they will not go away. They come up in many ways as negative and self-destructive attitudes and actions. The way to heal then, is by releasing your feelings. It may be frightening at first to reach out to strangers, but you will need support. Make sure that you feel comfortable and safe with the person or method you choose. If you go to an agency for help, don't be afraid to ask for an aboriginal worker.

Talk with a Friend

Find someone who will listen without judging, denying or becoming overwhelmed. A trusted and understanding person can sometimes help you get in touch with your feelings. This way you no longer need to feel isolated and ashamed of things that were not your fault.

Victim Services Line

  • may be 24-hr
  • offers support, information, referrals to other support services
  • prepare survivors for testifying in court and assist with victim impact statements

Crisis Line

  • may be 24-hr
  • gives support, information, referrals
  • usually volunteer counsellors

Sexual Assault Centre

  • often 24-hr
  • respond to the needs of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse
  • information and assistance in making a disclosure to the police
  • short or long term counselling
  • offers information and referrals

Support Group

  • offers emotional support and information
  • helps you not feel alone

Private Counsellor or Therapist

  • your band will have a social worker or CHR
  • it may also have a contract with a counsellor

  • you can access 20 sessions with a Medical Services approved counsellor
  • Mental Health, Friendship Centres and other agencies offer free counselling

Questions to ask a Counsellor

  • Ask if they are approved. Medical Services will pay for 20 "crisis intervention" sessions with a counsellor on their approved list. You will need a referral from your doctor.
  • Ask about the counsellor's experience and education. (Think about whether they have the right kind of experience for you.)
  • Ask if they have worked with First Nations people before. What do they know about residential school issues? (Make sure that their knowledge is not just in their head.)
  • Ask them to give you an example of how they could help you heal. (Make sure that they know how to explain things so that you can understand.)
  • Ask if they have a wellness plan. How do they work on their own issues? (Make sure that they are working toward their own health.)
  • Ask if they have any references. (Check out what other clients say about them.)
  • Ask if they work only with the head or with the whole person. (For holistic healing you need to balance the emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental.)
  • Ask if they belong to any associations. (If they do you can call the association to see if there are any complaints against them.)

Traditional Methods

  • Healing/Talking circles
  • Community Feasts - to honour and celebrate

different stages of healing

  • Prayer and Meditation - for grounding
  • Traditional Dance - for a spiritual connection
  • Fasting on sacred ground
  • Sweat lodges - for cleansing and purifying
  • Naming Ceremonies - for a sense of identity and belonging within families and communities
  • Medicine Wheel - for internal balance and harmony
  • Smudge Ceremonies - for purification, cleansing, clearing
  • Traditional Healing Ceremony - for spiritual connection and cleansing
Strength and Courage

It takes strength to be firm
It takes courage to be gentle
It takes strength to stand guard
It takes courage to let your guard down
It takes strength to conquer
It takes courage to surrender
It takes strength to be certain
It takes courage to have doubt
It takes strength to fit in
It takes courage to stand out
It takes strength to feel a friend's pain
It takes courage to feel your own pain
It takes strength to hide feelings
It takes courage to show them
It takes strength to endure abuse
It takes courage to stop it
It takes strength to stand alone
It takes courage to lean on another
It takes strength to love
It takes courage to be loved
It takes strength to survive
It takes courage to live

Author Unknown


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      More Information

What is the Society?  

BC Residential Schools

Common Thoughts

Making a Disclosure

If You Feel a Memory Coming

Criminal Prosecution Process

Role of the RCMP

Role of the Crown Counsel

Civil Process

Healing Principles