Indigenous teachings can be described as how Indigenous people, as a culture, approach issues and perspectives. Indigenous people have their own way of approaching healing as well. They incorporate wholeness, balance, relationships, growth, and harmony into the healing process. The concept of wholeness is a very important aspect of healing and teaching.
“Wholeness is the incorporation of all aspects of life. In order to focus upon the whole it becomes necessary to give attention to each part” (Hart 93).
The above quote describes that there are parts that make up a whole. This concept can be seen through the four elements (fire, water, air, earth) as well as the four seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter). Each of these individual parts make up one whole. Therefore, to understand a whole we must understand the aspects that make us a whole.
The concept of balance is also important and closely linked to the concept of wholeness. Balance is something that is constantly being pursued, we are never perfectly balanced all the time. For a person to achieve balance they need to be in harmony with all aspects of themselves. When we focus too much on one aspect of ourself this creates an imbalance. As a human being, it is the Indigenous way of thinking, that if we do not achieve balance then we cannot develop into our full potential as individuals.
The concept of growth is also important. It speaks to the development of the body, mind, and spirit in a harmonious manner. Every individual has the capability of growing , this is a life long process that develops our sense of self. Many Indigenous teachings believe that growth is a movement through life cycles towards wholeness, balance, and harmony between ourselves and other living things.
If we look at healing through an Indigenous perspective, we know that healing is not defined as something you do when you are ill or have a problem.
“Healing is viewed as a journey; it is something that is practiced daily throughout our lives … Healing is the transition that restores the person, community, and nation to wholeness, connectedness, and balance” (Hart 95).
The above quote captures what healing means through Indigenous teachings. This quote is expressed in the novel Porcupines and China Dolls, written by Robert Arthur Alexie. The whole community attends a healing workshop where traumas such as sexual abuse and mistreatment of children in residential schools are exposed to everyone who is listening. These demons have to be released so that the community and individuals can heal. Being able to confess their trauma and know that the men weren’t alone and to be able to talk about the trauma was a start to the healing process. The individual healing process started by being able to say their trauma out loud and share it. The community also started to heal; to accept what happened and became stronger by banding together, they didn’t have to handle their trauma and pain alone. Indigenous people believe that the only way to heal a wound is to deal with it, to let it grow and fester will just kill you and your spirit. The healing workshop let the people know that it was okay to heal and not be fragmented, but to be a whole self.
“Two hundred people sat in stunned silence and in total admiration of these three Warriors. They quietly kneeled in humble reverence and veneration as the Reverend Andy led them in prayer for lost souls, lost youth, broken trust and forgotten promises” (Alexie 207).
The above quote takes place at the end of the healing workshop. The men that shared their traumas are considered warriors because they fought and let their demons go for everyone to take witness to. The process of healing has begun. Below is a quote from the Globe and Mail newspaper article on Harpers apology to Indigenous people for the suffering and trauma they have experienced.
“”It has been a very long time that the elders have been waiting for this,” she said quietly. “I am surprised that they are actually telling the truth about some of the things that have happened”” – Julie Marion, Mi’kmaq (Curry & Galloway).
Similar to the healing workshop in Porcupines and China Dolls, the above quote from Julie Marion embraces the truth. By talking about past traumas and bringing them to the surface, this starts the healing process. As stated in Porcupines and China Dolls, healing is a journey, and by focusing on ourselves and community using the concept of wholeness and growth, the healing journey can be more enlightening.