At the Heart of Teaching, is Culture

Violet Naytowhow

Violet Naytowhow says culture is the heart of teaching.

As a child, growing up on the land in LaRonge, Saskatchewan, Violet learned a great deal about her culture, living off the earth, and creator teachings. And while she may not still live in the north, she has been able to translate those experiences and lessons in to her work as a counsellor.

Violet says she was able to do this thanks to the education she received at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv).

Today, she is a Wellness Coordinator for the Prince Albert Grand Council.

Violet graduated from First Nations University of Canada in 1987 with a Bachelor of Indian Social Work and that launched her career in counselling.

Violet is grateful to FNUniv for providing her with a strong foundation and a solid support system of approachable teachers and available programs.

That education has allowed Violet to play a key role in terms of managing teams of counsellors and mentors, who work with Indigenous youth with addictions.

She also travels to youth conferences across the province teaching cultural identity, knowledge, and traditions. Violet says she was surprised at how little some youth know about their history, yet encouraged to see how well-received her lessons are.

“It is important that politicians, parents, and mentors portray themselves as a good example for Indigenous youth today,” says Violet. “And, continue to promote the retention of our cultural roots.”

Violet also coordinates workshops for the Regional Aboriginal Development Association (RADA), in which youth create model homes of families with substance abuse issues, then compare them with model homes of healthy families, and then build their own models of recovery.

She says healthy homes are essential for Indigenous youth development.

“We need to start to be more independent and take responsibility for our actions,” says Violet. “There needs to be more safe channels for people talk freely about some of their feelings in good environments.”

Violet also uses the “On the Land” treatment program, a cultural treatment that consists of six weeks in remote areas with no technology and emphasis on traditional practices, such as sweats, prayer circles, hunting and fishing trips for the men, and tanning hides and building tipis for the women.

Violet is now in her third year studying Indigenous medicine at the First Nations Hospital in Prince Albert. She says Indigenous medicine is better than Institutional treatment.

“Creator-based teachings are better in the long term,” says Violet.

by Peter McDougall