National Aboriginal Awareness week, May 19-22, celebrates the many Aboriginal cultures across Canada and educates Canadians about the heritage of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, and the contributions they make to our society.
In centres such as Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Saskatoon and Prince Rupert, B.C., The Salvation Army has a unique opportunity to develop relationships, journey with and celebrate milestones with Aboriginal Canadians.
Shanoss attends The Salvation Army’s community church in Prince Rupert where encouragement, counselling and friendship helps her cope with a traumatic past.
At 13, Shanoss was taken from her home on a First Nations Reserve in British Columbia. Her final destination was a government boarding school, where years of disturbing events stripped her of her smile, innocence, culture and family.
Deep emotional scars prevented Shanoss from going to school for close to three decades. But she eventually completed high school, was class valedictorian and went on to attend Northwest Community College.
Today, Shanoss helps other residential school survivors’ deal with their pain, and fights for the restoration of the First Nations people.
“As a stronger person, I want to help other survivors,” says Shanoss. “I find that very rewarding.”
Captain Shari Russell, who was part of the “Sixties Scoop”, a period in Aboriginal history in Canada where thousands of young Aboriginal children were literally scooped from birth families and placed in non-Aboriginal environments, is Aboriginal Liaison within The Salvation Army.
“I work with The Salvation Army to develop best practices and positive expression with Aboriginal people, lead workshops on cultural awareness and connect with other Aboriginal groups,” says Shari.
Recently, an Aboriginal roundtable was held in Pine Lake, Alta., which included Salvation Army representatives from across the country. From the gathering The Salvation Army will continue to develop steps towards empowering its Indigenous leaders.
“I want to see positive, healthy Indigenous communities,” says Shari. “Everyone has gifts and strengths to contribute.”