For residential school survivors in Yellowknife, a new counselling office is opening its doors to help them and their families.

The Dene Wellness Warriors celebrated its official opening last Friday at the Native Women’s Association of the NWT, where they share office space.

The office is offering one-on-one counseling for men and women affected by one of Canada’s darkest pasts.

They also offer life coaching (which helps people set goals for the future) and develop and deliver workshops on wellness, fitness and health.

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“At this point though, most of it is counseling,” said co-founder and certified counselor and life coach Roy Erasmus.

Erasmus and his partner Jean Cardinal founded the Dene Wellness Warriors two years ago. Last Friday, they opened their doors downtown to offer their services in a more accessible location.

Cardinal has been placed on Health Canada’s list of Enrolled Mental Health Service Providers. This means that instead of paying out of pocket, people receiving counseling from her or other counselors on the list will have their meetings covered by Health Canada.

“Aboriginal people who have been to residential school or have someone in their family who has been in residential school, or if they’re treaty and they’re in a crisis situation then yes, the government will pay for it,” said Erasmus.

Though she’s not the first counselor enrolled for this line of mental health help, Cardinal is the only Aboriginal counselor on that list.

When asked why it’s important that Cardinal is an Aboriginal counselor, Erasmus said any counseling is important, but residential school survivors have told him that speaking to an Aboriginal therapist is important to helping them heal.

“It’s important to have an Aboriginal (counselor) because Aboriginal people will automatically feel more at ease and trusting of another Aboriginal person,” explained Erasmus.

“Particularly people that have been in residential school may have been abused, their abusers would have been non-Aboriginal people, and many of them don’t trust non-Aboriginal people.”

When asked about the lack of Aboriginal counselors in the NWT, Erasmus said that while there are counselors of Aboriginal descent, they just are not on Health Canada’s list of Enrolled Mental Health Service Providers.

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Dene Wellness Warriors is located at 4902 50 Avenue in the Native Women’s Association of the NWT above Canada Post.

They can be reached at (867) 446-0412 or by emailing denewellness@gmail.com.


This article has been revised from it’s original publication.