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As we honour National Indigenous History Month, it’s essential to celebrate the strengths and resilience of Indigenous youth. One impactful initiative at Inn from the Cold is the Buffalo Spirit Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing program, which offers a culturally tailored approach to fostering resilience and wellbeing among Indigenous youth.

Recognizing Strengths and Opportunities

Indigenous youth possess a rich cultural heritage, resilience, and strength. Despite facing systemic challenges, which have disrupted traditional family structures and cultural practices, these youth continue to thrive and contribute meaningfully to their communities. The Buffalo Spirit Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing program recognizes these strengths and challenges and provides opportunities for youth to build on their strengths for growth and empowerment.

The Buffalo Spirit Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Program

Inn from the Cold has developed the Buffalo Spirit Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing program for youth aged 11-18 in our shelter and housing programs. This program is generously funded by Dr. Lorri Egger and Steve Laut. This initiative provides a safe and supportive environment where Indigenous youth can come together for weekly activities aligned with the dimensions of the medicine wheel, promoting holistic health and balance.

Key Components of the Program

  1. Cultural Connection: The program emphasizes the importance of cultural identity and heritage. Youth have the opportunity to learn about their culture, traditions, and history, fostering a sense of pride and belonging. Engaging with Elders and Knowledge Keepers who share invaluable teachings and wisdom strengthens their cultural roots.
  2. Holistic Activities: Weekly activities are structured around the medicine wheel, encompassing the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of wellbeing. These activities include traditional arts and crafts, storytelling, physical exercises, and spiritual practices like smudging and Elder teachings.
  3. Community Engagement: The program encourages youth to participate in community events, enhancing their connection to their cultural roots and the broader community. This engagement helps them build a support network and feel a part of something larger than themselves.
  4. Peer Solidarity: Building solidarity among peers is a core focus of the program. Youth have the chance to connect with others facing similar experiences, creating a sense of camaraderie and mutual support. This peer connection is crucial for their mental health and personal development.
  5. Leadership and Support: The program is led by our dedicated Youth Peer Support worker, who provides guidance, mentorship, and a relatable role model for the youth. This leadership ensures that the program is responsive to the needs and voices of the participants, fostering a trusting and empowering environment.

Making a Difference

The Buffalo Spirit Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing program exemplifies how culturally tailored support can profoundly enhance the lives of Indigenous youth. By honouring their heritage, providing holistic care, and fostering community connections, the program helps youth build resilience, self-esteem and hope for the future.

As we reflect on the contributions and histories of Indigenous Peoples this month, let us also commit to supporting initiatives like the Buffalo Spirit youth program, which plays a vital role in nurturing the next generation of Indigenous leaders and changemakers.