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  • Writer's pictureLisa Cross M.S.W. Intern

Cultural Genocide and Indigenous-Informed Trauma Practice

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

In recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th, 2023, let's acknowledge that cultural genocide is a highly prevalent trauma that severely impacts Indigenous communities globally. The term "cultural genocide" refers to the systematic destruction of social connections through violent means or dehumanizing tactics that foster oppressive conditions to achieve social unity among all people. This includes acts like language repression, the destruction of cultural artifacts, forced assimilation, relocation and displacement, and the suppression of cultural practices. As a result, strategies like ethnic cleansing and assimilation frequently lead to individuals losing their cultural identity and disrupting their ability to integrate into society. For instance, removing the “Indian in the child" was one of the objectives of cultural genocide in residential schools. European settlers forcefully removed Indigenous children from their homes, denied their native languages and cultural traditions, and subjected them to various forms of abuse and neglect while at residential schools, resulting in the cultural destruction of numerous generations of Indigenous people.

When it comes to understanding trauma and promoting healing in Indigenous cultures, the Medicine Wheel may be a helpful framework. The Medicine Wheel acknowledges the multiple dimensions of trauma and its effects on a person's mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. The Medicine Wheel's teachings direct us toward leading a centred and peaceful life. The four directions of the Medicine Wheel—North, East, South, and West—each have their own unique characteristics and lessons to impart.

  • North: Symbolizes the spiritual facets of life, which trauma may have a significant impact on. In this level, the emphasis is on knowledge and direction, as well as on finding spiritual healing and a sense of purpose in life.

  • East: Symbolizes new beginnings, which are frequently interrupted by trauma, which can also interfere with mental clarity and causes uncertainty. People can focus on restoring mental clarity and strive on their recovery path in this realm.

  • South: Symbolizes life's emotional facets. It is crucial to take the time necessary to process and heal from emotional trauma since trauma frequently entails strong emotions and emotional wounds.

  • West: Associated with the notion of change. Unwanted changes in life are frequently indicators of trauma. This aspect may concentrate on helping people through these trying times, derive value from their past, and promote personal development.

Individuals' reactions to traumatic events might vary widely, but please know that there are options to receive support through therapy to help manage these symptoms. If you are seeking “Mino-Pimatisiwin” (the good life) and are looking to explore a wholistic approach that addresses the mind, body, and spirit, please contact us at 289-205-3505 or by visiting our website at:

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