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Wisdom from Elders in Treaty 4 & 6

This resource uses a Two-Eyed Seeing Approach weaving Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge to trauma informed care and healing. The resources are inspired by the wisdom of Elders in Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 lands in Saskatchewan.

Caring Hearts acknowledges that we are situated in Treaty 4 territory, the traditional lands of the Nêhiyawak (Cree), Anihšināpēk (Saulteaux), Dakota, Nakoda, Lakota, and the homeland of the Métis.

Mod 1

Learning Module 1

Sohkitehewin (Courage)

The Sacred Teaching of Sohkitehewin (Courage) means to be courageous with yourself by trying or learning something new. Be courageous to others by not being afraid to stand up/speak for what is right.

Module Overview:

The purpose of this course is to allow you to watch and listen to the recordings of Elder’s from Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 while relating them to the content presented in the Manual. Each module mirrors the manual chapters, for instance, you can work through Module 1 and then read Manual Chapter 1 for further context and vice versa. There will be additional videos and readings throughout the course. There are discussion questions to ponder that can be discussed during your Zoom or in-person education session. 


Module Instructions:

Each module contains a series of readings and videos for you to engage in. Most videos will be teachings and stories from Elder’s in Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 along with explanations and translations. Follow along with the required readings and videos as they are inserted for you to watch and read in each module.


Required Readings and Videos:

  1. Chapter 1 of the Manual

Recommended Reading:

  1. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Elders and Workers that contributed their knowledge:

Elder Lorna Standingready from Peepeekisis First Nation in Treaty 4

Elder Harry Francis from Piapot First Nation in Treaty 4

Elder Ralph Arcand from Mossomin First Nation in Treaty 6

Elder Jenny Spyglass from Mosquito First Nation in Treaty 6

Elder Evelyn Thomas from Sweetgrass First Nation in Treaty 6

Elder Myrtle Bear from Little Pine First Nation in Treaty 6

Elder Elaine Pelletier  from Lucky Man First Nation in Treaty 6

Elder Noel Moosak from Red Pheasant First Nation in Treaty 6

Elder Tootoosis from Poundmaker Cree Nation in Treaty 6 


Janet Carriere from Prince Albert, Executive Director of the Prince Albert Indian Metis Friendship Centre


Rhoda Peekeekoot from Ahtahkakoop First Nation, Family Support Worker at Prince Albert Indian Metis Friendship Centre

Image by Aarón Blanco Tejedor
Mod 2

Learning Module 2

Kwayask-itatisowin (Honesty) and Tapwewin (Truth)

The Sacred Teaching of Kwayask-itatisowin (Honesty) means to accept yourself and others for who they are and being honest with yourself and others. Tapwewin (Truth) means to be truthful to yourself and others.

Module Overview:

There is an ongoing crisis in Canada of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S) which is the result of colonial history, systemic racism, and discrimination within institutions that are structured around a Eurocentric worldview. To be able to effectively support MMIWG2S and their families, Canadian colonial history and its effects on Indigenous peoples must be understood.


The following link is to the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s (NWAC) web page on their research regarding MMIWG2S. NWAC has been a leading organization in bringing awareness to the crisis of MMIWG2S. Their web page contains more background information and history on MMIWG2S, access to Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, foundations that are helping to fight against the MMIWG2S crisis, and information on healing communities. Learn more.

Learning Objectives:

When you are finished with Module 2, you should be able to do the following:


  1. Define systemic racism

  2. Define discrimination

  3. Define Eurocentrism

  4. Define historical trauma

  5. Define intergenerational trauma

  6. Discuss what is contributing to the MMIWG2S problem

  7. Discuss the three steps you can take to create positive change for the MMIWG2S

Required Readings and Videos:

  1. Read Chapter 2 of the Manual

  2. Select a few MMIWG cases to read through: Indigenizing Workplaces Part of Reconciliation Journey

  3. Follow along with the video teachings and stories from Elder’s

Recommended Videos:

  1. Watch: What non-Indigenous Canadians need to know 

  2. Watch: Women in Canadian History: Mary Two-Axe Earley 


Key Terms and Concepts:

  1. Systemic racism: A form of racism that is embedded in the structure of society and its institutions, creating disadvantages for certain social and ethnic groups

  2. Discrimination: Being prejudiced and unjust toward different groups on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, age, ethnic background, disability, etc.

  3. Eurocentrism: The focus on predominantly Western European culture and history.

  4. Historical Trauma: A form of trauma that results from historical events that oppressed a specific cultural, racial, or ethnic group.

  5. Intergenerational Trauma: Trauma that is passed down both genetically, mentally, and behaviourally throughout generations.

Learning Material


Stories of MMIWG

“We are still hoping and praying that one of these times they will show up. We never give up; we never give up” -Elder Elaine Pelletier from Lucky Man, Treaty 6


Notice the rippling effects of losing a loved one who has been murdered or gone missing such as grief, substance abuse, and suicide. These rippling effects experienced by families and friends of MMIWG2S can be minimized and treated through support from your organizations and agencies. For instance, Elder Myrtle Bear spoke about the severity of grief and the lack of mental health services in First Nations communities. She states that keeping the pain of loss to yourself can fester emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically in your body which causes further health problems. People need to express their grief and have someone to talk to. However, effective supports need to be in place for people to share their grief and learn appropriate coping strategies. Elder Myrtle suggested setting up cultural support programs in hospitals and health centres led by Indigenous peoples for those who are dealing with grief.


Furthermore, Elder Ralph Arcand spoke on the racism in institutions that are in place to protect and search for MMIWG2S. He stated that he feels as though a case of a non-Indigenous person who went missing or was murdered would be dealt with sooner and taken more seriously. Elder Ralph questioned, “Why do they [non-Indigenous agencies and governments] want to help us now? They had previous opportunities to hear out stories, to hear our grief”. Elder Ralph asks valid questions that are a result of colonial history and historical and race-based trauma. Colonial institutions, for some, are a reminder of the lack of power for Indigenous peoples who must fight to be heard when voicing concerns for their missing loved ones, those who struggle with grief, and for those who experience high suicide rates in Indigenous communities. As a non-Indigenous agency offering support to Indigenous peoples, you must be aware that these valid questions that Elder Ralph asks are not uncommon and should not be ignored.


What can I do about the MMIWG2S crisis?

“You can Listen like you’re listening now, and you’re listening and thinking [about MMIWG and their families] is strength in itself; your thoughts bring strength…your thoughts are spiritual and just being there, sitting [and listening], you don’t have to say anything. Gaining strength from each other”.
– Elder Lorna Standingready from Peepeekisis Cree Nation in Treaty 4


Janet Carriere, Rhoda Peekeekoot, and Elder Lorna Standingready remind us of the importance of having humility as workers who provide support to the community. We are never greater than anyone we provide support for and must do our part in learning about colonial history as the root of trauma and oppression for many Indigenous peoples.


Remember these three steps to fight against the MMIWG2S crisis: Educate, Listen, and Support. Educate yourself through the numerous sources created by Indigenous peoples and agencies. By educating yourself and listening to Indigenous peoples’ stories, you are showing your support for the MMIWG2S crisis. You can further your support by joining annual walks in your community throughout the year to spread awareness and honour MMIWG2S, wearing red on May 5, the National Day of Awareness for MMIWG2S, and volunteering and donating to organizations dedicated to fighting the MMIWG2S crisis such as the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Native Justice Coalition, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Legacy of Hope Foundation, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, and your local Friendship Centres.


By finishing the Manual and learning from Elders, you have already begun educating yourself and listening. This does not mean that once you finish reading the manual, you can cross education and listening off your list for supporting MMIWG2S. Your education and listening do not stop here, this is only a start. There are many sources created by Indigenous peoples to further educate yourself, below are a few examples that you can access for free now.


  1. Finding Dawn 

  2. This River

  3. Our Future Daughters 

If you are providing direct support to a family of a missing person then remember these 7 steps:


Re-establish structure:

Because family members experience emotional and sometimes physical shock when a family member goes missing, re-establishing structure in the family is key for organization during a chaotic time and to assist the family in gaining back a sense of control. To re-establish structure, work on emotional structure and physical structure in the family. To establish emotional structure, provide a safe space for the family to discuss their thoughts and feelings on the missing person. To establish physical structure, make sure the family follows a daily schedule to keep themselves and their family healthy while also making time for dealing with police, media, and search groups.


Accept the temporary absence

Over time, family members will begin to accept that their loved one is not physically present. As the family accepts the temporary absence of their loved one, the emotional shock and numbing/feeling cycle begins to diminish. The family is now more capable of handling or coping with the details of the situation and does not need to shut down as often emotionally. The numbing-feeling cycle tends to be less extreme, moving to a more constant but less volatile emotional pattern. This is a new emotional pattern for the family members. They are moving from the response of emotional shock to emotional stress. This condition may be characterized by occasional emotional outbursts, lack of patience, bouts of panic (sometimes resulting in difficulty breathing), and quickness to anger. As a support person, focus on new coping strategies suitable for the new emotions they are feeling.

Filling the roles of the missing person

Over time, families will begin to fill the physical roles that the missing loved one once filled like reassigning chores to assist in the new family structure and day to day activities. However, filling the non-physical roles of the missing person is impossible such as the loss of their personality, which is unique to all other personalities in the family. When a family member attempts consciously or unconsciously to become the missing person, intervention is necessary. Appropriate support would be to help the family member to define their own identity, value that identity, and establish some sense of future for that identity separate from that of the missing loved one.

Review of personal beliefs of the ‘status’ of the missing person

Individuals in a family may have different ideas or concerns about what has happened to the missing loved one and it is important for each individuals idea or concern to be heard. This must be possible without concern for the impact of their belief on other family members. It is very difficult for a family member to say they believe the missing family member is dead, when another family member reacts very negatively to that belief, shaming that family member for giving up hope. Family members do not have to accept each other’s’ belief, but need to hear it, without comment.

Feel through the pain of the absence, uncertainty/fear, and guilt

Because issues of uncertainty, fear, and guilt are so intense and emotionally powerful, it is very difficult for anyone in or around the family to discuss them. While it is helpful to discuss these types of issues, it should only be attempted when the family members are ready. Forcing a premature discussion of any of these topics will do more harm than good.

Accept dual perceptions of life

As time passes and the fate of the missing loved one remains unknown, the family begins to separate or compartmentalize their beliefs about life. The family members create for themselves a dual system of values through which to perceive life: one contains the values and beliefs about the world that were held prior to their loved one gone missing, the other the beliefs about the world which have been accepted as a result of the loved one gone missing. The ultimate example would be ‘my loved one will return and everything will be alright’ vs ‘my loved one will never return and life will forever be unbearable’. The family members find him/herself ‘vibrating’ between these two beliefs, which creates a situation of unresolved internal conflict

Create long-term coping structure that integrates both perceptions

As long as individuals believe that the missing will return, they will utilize this dual belief system. As time passes, it will become the norm for the family to picture two possible futures, and discuss the loved one alternating between the two perspectives of the future as ‘still missing’ or ‘when he/she has returned’. While this allows the family to function, make decisions about the future, and perhaps even move ahead with the life of the family, the more comfortable the family is with a coping pattern utilizing a dual belief system, the more difficult it will be for that family to accept the possibility that the loved one will not return, even in the face of evidence.

Discussion Questions/ Questions to Ponder:

  1. How do the definitions listed at the beginning of this module connect to each other?

  2. Why are concepts such as Eurocentrism, systemic racism, race-based trauma, and historical trauma important when it comes to understanding the crisis of MMIWG?

  3. What are 1-3 things that you can take away from the stories that the Elder’s shared with you about missing persons?

  4. What are three things that you can do to support MMIWG2S and their families?

  5. If you are working in an agency that provides direct support to missing persons and their families, what are at least three things you can do to assist families in these situations? How does the support change as time passes?

Image by Tandem X Visuals
Mod 3

Learning Module 3

Sakihiyowin (Love)

The Sacred Teaching of Sakihiyowin (Love) means to love and take care of yourself and others. Take care of your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Show kindness to others to receive kindness.

Module Overview

Module 3 will explain the concept of two-eyed seeing and how you can incorporate two-eyed seeing into your workspace and environment. In addition, this module will go over some helpful protocols when working with and asking for help from Indigenous communities and Elders.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the concept of two-eyed seeing

  2. Know the importance of Elders and their various roles in communities

  3. Know the importance of protocol and how it can differ amongst communities and Nations


Required Readings

  1. Read Chapter 3 of the Manual

  2. Article: Indigenizing workplaces part of reconciliation journey: Panel

  3. Follow along with the video teachings and stories from the Elder’s


Recommended Video:

  1. Video: Indigenous Knowledge to Close Gaps in Indigenous Health | Marcia Anderson-DeCoteau | TEDxUManitoba


Key Terms:

  1. Two-Eyed Seeing: Learning and seeing out of two different eyes: one eye being traditional Indigenous knowledge and the other eye being Western forms of knowledge and using both eyes collaboratively.

  2. Elder: A person who is recognized for their honour, self-respect, and integrity in the community(s) that they work in and who provides a high degree of understanding of traditional teachings, ceremonies, languages, and healing practices

  3. Protocol: Adhering to a Nation’s traditional and ethical ways of being.


Learning Material

Our institutions and workplaces are often structured and run through a Westernized perspective; however, when it comes to providing support to Indigenous peoples, it is important to incorporate a two-eyed seeing perspective. This can be done by incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and healing in our workspaces to better support Indigenous peoples in our communities.


How can I incorporate Indigenous knowledge in my workspace?

There are many things you can do to incorporate Indigenous knowledge in your workspace:


  1. Ask an Elder for help and see if they can act as an Elder for your agency. Having an Elder on staff can assist those who prefer to speak with an Elder directly and/or have an Elder sit in on meetings/check-ins with clients. If you are unable to have an Elder on Staff and wish to ask for assistance from one, remember that an Elder’s time is valuable, and they can be booked up to 6 months in advance. Be intentional in your ways of asking and approaching an Elder.

    A certain protocol should be followed when requesting an Elder’s assistance and can vary from nation to nation and community to community. Most importantly, tobaccos should be presented to an Elder when asking for any help; this could include asking for prayers, ceremonial help, advice, or any sort of questions you may have. An Elder’s time should be recognized and properly compensated as a sign of respect and appreciation. This gift may include an honorarium, cloth, blanket, or clothing (like mitts, toque, socks, slippers, etc.). If possible, seek out an Elder and speak to them in person by asking them for coffee or for a walk. Get to know an Elder first and share some information about yourself as well. Taking time to build relationships is key.

  2. Two-eyed seeing in your work/workplace can be applied in many ways. For instance, having an Elder on staff who can assist you with helping Indigenous peoples is one way.  Another way could be providing a safe space for Indigenous peoples to smudge and connect with each other and the people whom they are getting support from. Smudging is important to Indigenous culture as it carries prayers through the rising smoke to the Creator, grandmother, grandfathers, and spirit helpers.

    There are multiple ways to incorporate smudging in your workspace. One way could be to dedicate a small room or corner to smudging. This allows employees and clients a safe space to smudge on their own or with an Elder. Another way is to start meetings or check-ins with an Indigenous person by smudging with an Elder (if an Indigenous person has agreed to this/wants to smudge). Including smudging and prayer before a meeting will assist the meeting in proceeding in a good and positive way.

    “We step on each other’s toes now and then, but that’s part of walking together.”
    -Elder Lorna Standingready, Peepeekisis First Nation in Treaty 4.

Incorporating the medicine wheel as a guide for healing and support can be utilized as a method of two-eyed seeing in your work/workplace. The medicine wheel is an important part of the healing practice. The circle of the medicine wheel symbolizes a healing circle. Each of the four sections of the wheel represents important elements needed to achieve balance and wholeness within oneself. Commonly, you will see a medicine wheel depict the wellness of an individual: physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental.

The medicine wheel can be incorporated as visuals in a physical space to aid as a reminder of balance and wholeness when providing support and care. The medicine wheel can also aid as a reminder to be in touch with one’s physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being. Before starting work in the morning check-in with yourself: how am I doing physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally and what can I do today to aid my physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional wellbeing? It is just as important to check in with yourself as it is to check in with others because you cannot provide effective care for others if you are not providing effective care for yourself. Furthermore, look to the medicine wheel when providing care and support to others.



How can I approach an Indigenous community and/or Elder?


  1. Reach out to Indigenous-run agencies for advice and connections to leaders, Elders, and knowledge keepers (ex. Friendship Centres).

  2. Face-to-face interactions are important

  3. Remember Protocol like tobacco, greetings, and taking the time to build relationships


The Importance of Protocol

Each Nation or community will have different protocols when approaching community leaders and Elders, although you may notice similarities.


  • Acknowledge the land you are on

  • Offer Tobacco and an honorarium to Elders

  • Allow time for a prayer/blessing before a meeting begins

  • Introduce yourself (who you are, what you do, where you are from)

  • Have food present

  • Include the circle (sit in a circle, if possible, so everyone is facing each other)

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is incorporating two-eyed seeing in your agency important?

  2. What are at least three protocols you should remember when approaching an Elder and involving Indigenous communities?

Image by Tandem X Visuals
Mod 4

Learning Module 4

Wisdom & Respect

The Sacred Teaching of Iyinisiwin (Wisdom) means to show wisdom and help those who are struggling with understanding. Be wise with yourself and gain wisdom with perseverance and time; nothing comes without effort. Be wise with others by sharing your knowledge with others and those younger than you; be a role model.

The Sacred Teaching of Kisteyimitowin (Respect) means to respect all living things. Respect your environment and keep a positive attitude towards all aspects of nature. Protect and care for nature; leave nature better than when you found it. Do not take more than you need and do not let things go to waste. Respect yourself and respect people around you.

Module Overview

The purpose of Module 4 is to learn about the teachings and traditional healing methods of the Elders. 


Module Objectives

  1. Notice differences between Western and Indigenous healing methods


Required Readings

  1. Chapter 4 of the Manual


Recommended Readings

  1. You are the Medicine by Asha Frost
    This book teaches the healing medicine of the 13 Ojibwe moons and spirit animals.

  2. Decolonizing Trauma Work: Indigenous Stories and Strategies by Renee Linklater
    This book looks at healing and wellness in Indigenous communities on Turtle Island. Through a decolonized approach, Linklater talks about topics such as Indigenous worldviews, wellness, holistic health, psychiatry and psychiatric diagnosis, and Indigenous approaches to helping people through trauma, depression, and experiences of parallel and multiple realities. This is a book aimed to educate health care practitioners, healing centres, clinical services, education and training programs, and policy initiatives.


Key Terms:

  1. Traditional Healing: Traditional Indigenous healing combines the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person to heal through a holistic approach. There have been criticisms of the term “traditional” as some believe it keeps Indigenous healing approaches in the past as opposed to a valuable approach to modern-day healing methods

  2. Land-based Healing: This term is used in academic discourse and refers to the healing process when one connects with nature.

Learning Module 5

Humility: Conclusion

The Sacred Teaching of Tapahteyimisowin (Humility) means to be humble and not brag or boast to others who are struggling when you are not. Be humble to yourself and use your best judgment. Be humble to others and do not be unkind to family, friends, and neighbours.

We hope you apply aspects of the Seven Sacred Teachings in your work because each teaching provides helpful advice to live by. Recall that colonization has impacted Indigenous peoples on an economic, political, and legal level and contributes to systemic racism and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples today. You, as an agency, must do the work to break down these systems of racism, discrimination, and prejudice by educating yourself on colonization in Canada and evaluating the barriers that your agency may have for Indigenous peoples.


Remember that utilizing two-eyed seeing in your work will allow you to combine a Western and traditional Indigenous knowledge approach to benefit Indigenous peoples to whom you provide support. For instance, asking an Elder for help, and advice, being on staff, and sitting in meetings with clients are good ways to incorporate Indigenous knowledge in your workplace. Including Indigenous artwork, music, greetings, smudging, the medicine wheel, and sharing circles creates a welcoming environment. Recall the stories and teachings that Elder’s from Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 shared on topics such as MMIWG2S, culture and language, healing, and the importance of land as these stories and teachings are an honour to listen to and learn about.


Thank you for taking the time to learn with us.

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