Intergenerational Trauma

Good mental health allows us to live our lives to the fullest.

Good mental health allows us to live our lives to the fullest—it influences how we feel on a daily basis, allows us to build healthy relationships, and helps us deal with life’s difficulties. But when that integral piece of our overall well-being is missing, it can impact not only our lives, but the lives of those closest to us. And when that trauma is multiplied, and passed on from one generation to the next, it has devastating effects not only on the individuals and families involved, but on entire communities.

Political, social, and economic policies and practices over time have negatively affected the well-being of Calgary and area’s Indigenous population. Suppressed Indigenous culture, identity, and spirituality has resulted in significant loss of language, spirituality, family structure, and traditional roles in Indigenous societies.

As a result of this trauma, Indigenous people have higher suicide and homeless rates, poorer health, lower income, and tend to be less formally educated than other Canadians. Without a chance to fully address and heal from this trauma, it is passed down and perpetuated in Indigenous children and youth.

Healing from intergenerational trauma and preventing it from occurring in future generations is a crucial step in supporting Indigenous people to rebuild their families and communities from a place of hope, strength, and resiliency. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma helps ensure their success and well-being and affirms the unique gifts they bring to creating stronger, more inclusive communities.

United Way invests in programs and services—like the Natoo’si Indigenous Healing and Well-being Initiative—that strengthen Indigenous cultural identity and support the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of Indigenous people. To respond to the complex needs of urban Indigenous youth, the Diamond Willow Youth Lodge is a place for young people to connect with peers, facilitate healing and well-being, and access a variety of supports.

21% of Calgary’s homeless population is Indigenous.

Indigenous women make up 54% of the shelter population in Alberta.

Seven generations of Indigenous children (150,000) in Canada were removed from their families and went through the residential school system.

The impact of intergenerational trauma:

A graphic of the results of intergenerational trauma.

Community of Practice Group

The Natoo’si Community of Practice Group began in 2016 as a group of United Way funded agencies that served Indigenous people, to come together to share learning with each other on the design and implementation of a healing program and healing practices within organizations. This was to align with the goal of Natoo’si which is:

Indigenous people are engaged on a path of healing and well-being to achieve success.

Over the years, this group has built a strong and trusting relationship to share resources and collaborate efforts with one another. Through this relationship, the Community of Practice group organically wanted to create more impact in their organizations rather than only within their healing program. Through conversations as a group, they identified 3 priority areas that the group wanted to begin having influences on: 1) collaborative supports; 2) self-care for staff; and 3) decolonizing organizations.

As an Expression of Interest from United Way emerged in 2020, the Community of Practice welcomed some new agencies in the group and have transitioned to a Community of Practice 2.0.

This newly evolved group will:

  • Continue to develop influential actions on the 3 priority areas
  • Embark on a learning journey of the United Way Akak’stiman Indigenous Strategy
  • Support as mentors to take the other United Way funded agencies on a learning journey of the United Way Akak’stiman Indigenous Strategy
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Changing local lives

Meet local people supporting those experiencing intergenerational trauma issues.

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Explore further

Dive deeper into intergenerational trauma by seeing how it plays out across generations.

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United Way of Calgary and AreaIntergenerational Trauma