When Cowessess First Nation’s Owen Pelletier looks back on his childhood, there are few happy memories.
“My parents were experiencing trauma and they were numbing him through drugs and alcohol and they ended up abandoning us children and experiencing neglect, abuse and abandonment,” he told Global News.
Pelletier recalled experiencing the same treatment in foster care, as well as racism and discrimination.
“As for me, I was the Indian foster child. That was my title. That was my identity, the little Indian foster boy, ”he said.
There was no relief at the school where Pelletier said he was bullied and belittled.
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“You spend seven years in that kind of environment, what do you think is going to happen to a person? You’re going to get mad, “he said, adding,” If we don’t know the coping mechanisms, how to deal with this properly, then we want to join gangs and we want to smoke drugs and drink alcohol. “
This is what happened to Pelletier.
He joined a gang, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and eventually ended up in the Saskatoon and Regina correctional facilities.
A young indigenous man, he never understood the root cause of his struggles.
“Thirty, four years before the lady says: ‘You suffer from neglect and neglect.’ Wow, lightbulb! I never knew that … Now I am conscious, now I can begin to heal, ”he said.
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Once Pelletier understood that he was experiencing intergenerational trauma, he began to address it.
“My mother was sent to a residential school when she was a child. She experienced emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse from caregivers there and never recovered from it. She buried deep inside him. And drugs and alcohol, that’s how we deal with it. This is how we numb the pain, ”he said.
Pelletier is also a victim of the 1960s Scoop family fracture on his father’s side of the family.
“So it’s easy to make that connection, how those intergenerational traumas are transmitted,” he added.
On Recovery Day and National Truth and Reconciliation Day, Pelletier reflects on his past, his own recovery, and his “second chance at life.”
One of the barriers to recovery, for some, may be the stigma associated with addiction.
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“The society that puts that stigma and judgment on people, families, law enforcement, healthcare providers, everyone carries a level of judgment and stigma towards people who use drugs, often thinking that it is their guilt, “explained Louise Lemieux White, co-founder of Families for Addiction Recovery.
“We know that addiction is not an option and is a disease that can be treated and prevented, and we hope that people can get the compassion and empathy they deserve and not be stigmatized,” White added.
Pelletier said another barrier to recovery may be a lack of acceptance.
“Once we understand that we were dealt a bad hand and that we are not bad people, we were just dealt a bad hand and we suffered trauma and that is why we are trying to numb them through drugs and alcohol. Once we understand that, we can begin to break that pattern and begin to heal, ”he said.
Ontario Associate Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo, who will spend time in various indigenous communities next month, said Canadians must respect what indigenous peoples have been through and “give them the tools to help improve their lives.” .
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“There are incredible people in indigenous communities who have never been given the opportunity to truly shine. There are teachings from indigenous culture that are extremely helpful in dealing with many of the mental health problems and addictions that we have, ”said Tibollo.
As an inspirational and motivational speaker and father of three, Pelletier now dedicates his time to providing positive guidance to indigenous youth and helping them on the right path.
“There is so much negativity where they come from, there are so many drugs and alcohol and getting in and out of jail and that’s how it was for me,” he said. “Trauma, suffering, pain, pain… I have friends who are down to earth because of that lifestyle and they are not taking care of it. So if they approach it, acknowledge it, accept it and start working and healing to achieve it … they are going to have a great life. “
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