National Day of Healing and Reconciliation – June 11 2012, is the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation. So what does that mean? In 2008 both Australia and Canada recognized that past government policies of assimilation and the residential school system caused great hardship to Aboriginal people.
Both governments condemned the creation of the system that carried these policies out. In Australia the day is called Sorry Day and was the original basis of the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation (NHDR) in Canada. NDHR is a day when we can all learn more about the collective history of Aboriginal and non-
Aboriginal peoples in Canada and gain a greater understanding of the policies that contributed to the tragic dismantling of Aboriginal cultures, language and spirituality. Families, individuals, communities, churches, and governments are now moving towards celebrating the positives of collective healing and reconciliation.
As a health care worker how does this have relevance to my tobacco reduction work in Aboriginal communities?Many of the legacies of a fractured culture are detrimental to the health of our native communities – high rates of tobacco addiction are one example. We have not been immune to the instant gratification of using and abusing commercial tobacco.
Fortunately, using cultural practices, language, respect for medicines and traditions aboriginal people can regain their healthy lifestyles.Communities can celebrate their way of life by honouring traditions such as growing our own tobacco for use in ceremonies and medicine.
We can celebrate our elders and our healers by returning to growing what we use and not misusing tobacco as something smoked then cast off on the ground under our feet. In the spirit of NDHR, many communities in the Interior Health region have taken steps to restore some of these practices and are now growing tobacco for ceremonial use while working hard to help people address addiction to smoking tobacco.
For more information about the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation visit: www.ndhr.ca.
Author: Kym Howay is an Aboriginal Tobacco Reduction coordinator with Interior Health