Spotlight on the Historical Trauma Healing Program

By Amy Myszko

Many of you know about the work that the Niibi Center has been doing in our community. If you’re not yet familiar, the Niibi Center is an Indigenous-led non-profit based on White Earth that aims to protect niibi (water) and manoomin (wild rice) through protecting and preserving Anishinaabe culture. We have programs that support language, protect manoomin through rights of nature work, and uplift women’s leadership and spiritual growth.

Our Historical Trauma Healing program focuses on preserving historical information/records, sharing stories around the effects of boarding school trauma, forced removal and other generational and current manifestations of colonization, and taking steps to help individuals and the community heal from the effects of this trauma. The Niibi Center is very excited to welcome Angel Stevens, from the local village of Rice Lake, as our new Director of Historical Trauma Healing.

In 2022, the Niibi Center worked with two primary funders to accomplish work related to Historical Trauma Healing. With support from the Medica Foundation, the Niibi Center hosted two Historical Trauma Healing events at the Shooting Star Casino where we shared information and collected interviews from elders and family members of boarding school survivors in order to assess the needs for this type of story sharing and round table discussion in the community. The consensus was that getting together to share these stories and talk about how to address generational trauma is both healing and necessary.

The Medica Foundation is also supporting the Niibi Center to send 6 White Earth band members to become trainers for “Mending Broken Hearts,” a 2-day workshop created by White Bison to directly address the current grief and generational trauma affecting indigenous communities. These individuals have committed to hosting the Mending Broken Hearts training in our local community, with an emphasis on making it accessible to the various villages on White Earth in 2023 and beyond.

Through funding from the McKnight foundation and in collaboration with St. Benedict’s College, the Niibi Center will continue to host community conversations around boarding school trauma. In an effort to make things right, St. Benedicts, which is historically tied to the Catholic order that ran the White Earth boarding school, is collecting interviews with the few remaining nuns who were involved in either the Day School or the boarding school here on WE. In conjunction with the WE Tribal Historical Preservation Officer Jaime Arsinault, St. Benedicts has also been working steadily to catalogue and return all boarding school records to the WE tribe.

As a community partner, the Niibi Center is helping to collect interviews with WE elders and family members who have been affected by the WE boarding school. These interviews will be the sole property of the individuals who give them, and can be kept private for family use or permission can be given for the interviews to be held in the WE Archives. For those that desire their interview to be public, with express permission we can share it on the Niibi Center’s new website, which is a repository for interviews, language resources, articles and videos related to our work in the community.

In our Historical Healing work, the Niibi Center aims to create spaces where stories can be shared in safety and where there are cultural resources present through traditional language and prayer to facilitate collective processing. The WE community is invited to another gathering for round table discussions and to collect stories (interviews) from boarding school survivors and their family members on Sunday Dec 18th at 10am (and all day) at the Rice Lake Community Center. We will come together to share food, stories and ideas around collective healing. Stipends will be provided for participants and anyone interested in giving an interview will receive the final edited video of their interview, as well as a stipend. Questions can be directed to Angel at or 218-407-5517.

This article is published in the December 2022 edition of the Anishinaabeg Today on page 1.,%202022%20c.pdf

Find out more about the Niibi Center’s Historical Healing program here.

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