I Carry a Toolbox and a Bundle – Blending Western and Indigenous Knowledge in Therapy

Where do I belong?

This was a question that I was challenged with much later in life when I began to explore my family lineage, a blend of Indigenous and European ancestry. As a little girl I just wanted to make friends and play…” Why didn’t I quite fit in the box in my school?”

It took until my forties when I attended my first traditional Indigenous ceremony to break outside of this box and become curious about what was happening inside me.

As an adult student, at forty years old, while learning Western approaches to therapeutic modalities, I sensed a missing puzzle piece. Discovering that my maternal family tree had strong branches of Indigenous women who married European men, I began to dig deeper into my family history to find out why my little girl Spirit was feeling incomplete.

This was my A-HA moment!

I carry a toolbox…I do not belong in one!

Cognitive behavioral therapy, Focusing-Oriented Therapy, Complex Trauma Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and the list goes on. These are some of the trainings I’ve explored in my academia. In my private practice, these modalities have all played an integral role in how I sit with and attend to people in a strength-based, person-centered approach.

Then…. I entered a sweat lodge and this added an inside piece to my puzzle. I BELONGED!

Why do I belong?

I was welcomed with non-judgemental kindness by the Elder in the lodge.

Although the steam from the water being poured on the Grandfather/Grandmother rocks in the lodge created a warm glow on the outside, I felt an even stronger glow from the inside.

I felt an instant connection to the songs, the teachings, the presence of my ancestors, the prayers, and my Identity as a mixed-blood woman.

“I am Metis! I am Metis! I am Metis!”

These are words that I could not express as a little girl growing up in a predominantly non-Indigenous community. Now, I am proud to say that I am Metis – the daughter of an Indigenous mother and European father. I understand now why I could not utter this in the 1970’s. I honor my Icelandic and English ancestry while identifying spiritually with my Indigenous ancestry.

I carry a sacred bundle….

Throughout the years of participating in ceremonies and making connections with my ceremony family, I have been honored and humbled to have received gifts that I now carry and nurture as my bundle. I walk with my bundle, and the items that I carry remind me to walk in kindness and respect our Mother Earth and all my relations. The teachings that I carry and share are from my Elders and Knowledge sharers whom I acknowledge on my journey. The more that I learn, the more I know what I didn’t know! (If that makes sense)

The teachings that I carry and share are from my Elders and Knowledge sharers whom I acknowledge on my journey.
“I carry a Toolbox and a Bundle.”

I shared this statement in a training in Vancouver and a young man immediately raised his hand and stated, “THERE IT IS! That is how I work with people, and I couldn’t figure out how to describe that I used the teachings from my Western education and my traditional teachings.  THERE IT IS!” That was his A-HA moment.

Elder Albert Marshall of the Mi’kmaw Nation in Nova Scotia adopted the concept of two-eyed seeing as a way to blend and bridge the strengths of the Western ways of knowing and being with the Indigenous ways of knowing and being. This is what I see as carrying my toolbox and bundle.

Now I belong!

I am discovering ways to weave and intertwine what I know from my education journey and what I continue to learn from the Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

I respect the therapeutic approaches and modalities in my toolbox and honor and respect the sacred items in my bundle.

The puzzle came together once I found all the outside pieces. I was able to begin to explore the inside pieces and the picture became clearer with each piece that I tried. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit, and I persevere until I find the ‘right’ fit for the person with whom I share space within the community or my office.

Where do you feel a sense of belonging?


Patricia Habermann

RPC, ACC – Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

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