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Residential Schools:

Healing the Hurts and Moving On

A Proposal to

an Aboriginal Health Centre


Residential School Learning Needs Assessment,

Curriculum Development and Training Project Approach

used in October 1999


One of the most devastating things ever done to Aboriginal people was the removal of successive generations of children from their families and the placement of those children in residential schools. The stories of what happened to children and communities in those schools constitutes one of the darkest and most controversial episodes in Canadian Aboriginal history. While we know that some people feel they were not damaged by these schools, we also know that many children were severely traumatized. Some were beaten, tortured and even killed. Many were sexually abused, socially humiliated and psychologically and spiritually brutalized. After four generations of children from the same community passed through the schools, there was in many cases, little left of traditional culture, language, spiritual teachings and the bonds of trust, respect and forgiveness within human relationships that are needed for healthy family and community life.

The process of recovery from the trauma of residential schools is one of the most challenging issues facing Canadian Aboriginal communities today. It is now clear that unresolved trauma from the schools is affecting the political and economic life of communities, as well as the intimacy and integrity of family life and the capacities of many individuals to realize their full potential as human beings.

This is a proposal to the Health Centre in __________, presented jointly from Four Directions International and its sister organization, the Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning, both situated in Alberta.

Excuses, Excuses

One comment we feel we must offer is that our entire core team has been, and will continue to be working in the field from the time your RFP reached us (September 2nd) to past your deadline date (September 17th). This means we do not have access to many documents we would otherwise reference to demonstrate our capacity related to the RFP. To compensate for this, we are sending a package of materials containing examples of work we believe is directly relevant to our proposal, and which demonstrates our competencies. Those items are as follows:

  1. Community Healing and Aboriginal Social Security Reform: A Study Prepared for the Assembly of First Nations — examining the wellness needs of Aboriginal communities across Canada in relationship to Federal monies and programming and asking the question; what is needed to bring Aboriginal communities to wellness, from the inside-out and from the outside-in.
  2. Responding to Sexual Abuse — a manual on what is involved in setting up an Aboriginal community sexual abuse response strategy, including the training needs of a response team.
  3. Healing the Hurts — a video (one of the first of its kind) demonstrating approaches to healing related to the residential school issue.
  4. Residential Schools Project Clippings Collection — a collection of newspaper articles and other materials documenting Four Worlds' involvement and leadership in working with southern Alberta communities on addressing the residential school issue through the courts.
  5. Four Worlds Catalogue — which demonstrates the breadth and range of curriculum materials developed by Four Worlds.
  6. Applied Human and Community Development Masters Program — a brochure which demonstrates our ability to design and deliver a comprehensive training program.
  7. Four Worlds/Four Directions Capability Resume — which summarizes the range of work and experience we would bring to your project.
  8. The Community Story Framework — a practical tool developed by Four Worlds for use in a participatory action research process aimed at assessing community realities, needs, and conditions. Includes a sample section demonstrating the kind of data the process generates.
  9. MSB Substance Abuse Training of Trainers Program — sent to demonstrate our experience in designing a comprehensive , non-formal training program for front line workers related to community healing.
  10. Sample List of Relevant Workshops and Non-formal Training — delivered by Four Worlds.

Our Understanding of Your Request

We understand that you are asking for three (3) separate, but interrelated pieces of work to be done.

1. Project Needs Assessment and Evaluation

This involves conducting an assessment of the learning needs of your front-line staff related to the legacy of residential schools as it plays itself out in the life of the community you serve. The aim of this learning, as we understand it, is to assist your staff (who are already deeply immersed in the work of addressing the full range of community wellness related issues) to become more effective in addressing the specific needs and issues that exist in the community in relation to the legacy of residential schools.

In addition to preparing a report that clearly outlines the staff learning needs in this area, this portion of the work also entails conducting a follow-up evaluation related to the appropriateness of the curriculum and the effectiveness of the training provided.

2. Curriculum Development This part of the work entails the actual delivery of the training designed to meet the learning needs identified in Part I. We understand "curriculum" to entail appropriate content, processes, and the capacity to adapt to an evolving community context. 3. Training Delivery This part of the work entails the actual delivery of the training designed in Part II.
The remainder of this proposal will address the following:
  A. A brief description of how we propose to go about the work of each of the three parts listed above.

For each part, a summary of the issues and obstacles we anticipate will be provided and a brief outline of how we would address them will be included.

B. A brief introduction to Four Worlds/Four Directions and to the work-team we propose to use.

C. A demonstration of ability related to the areas of capacity outlined in your RFP.

D. A budget.

A. How we propose to do the work

                              1.The learning needs assessment process would have to contain the following elements:

2.Building relationships of trust with front line staff. We assume that many (if not most) of the staff are also community members and so the issue of residential schools is not just somebody else's issue. It is also their own issue. From what little we know of the Health Centre, you are already deeply engaged with many issues that have been identified (in other communities) with the legacy of residential schools.
Through your own service network, we imagine that many of the families in the community are represented on staff or served, or both.   We propose to hold a 2-day initial workshop with staff that would be preceded by two days of listening very carefully to them (department by department) as to what genuine issues they are struggling with. The Workshop would (a) summarize (i.e. feed back) in generic form the main themes we heard that staff seem to have in common; (b) present what we know (from our research and fairly extensive experience) regarding the experiences of Aboriginal people in residential schools in western Canada, and the sorts of impacts their experiences have had (generically) on communities; (c) present a summary of what we know from historical and other research sources done by Four Worlds beforehand regarding the schools your people were sent too.

3.Engage staff in phase one of a participatory action research process to identify:

4.The specific impacts the residential school experience has had on the people and community.

4.1 To identify and explore learning needs, learning style preferences and learning realities of the various departments and individual staff members, given their levels of knowledge and experience, their mandates, and their levels of wellness.   Issue: Some might be inclined to hold open community meetings. We feel that the residential school issue is really a complex bundle of issues that can be extremely volatile. We feel it is much wiser to take a more gradual and contained approach, involving staff, and perhaps key informants identified by staff. At this stage we (Four Worlds) do not know what issues are really there, and just how volatile they are. We also don't know what the community's capacity is to respond to crises in a healing mode. We do know that getting people to tell their stories is a part of the healing process itself, and needs to occur within a holding environment of safety, confidentiality and support. We propose that by taking a somewhat more indirect approach, we will be able to meet your goals of identifying staff learning needs related to their effectiveness in addressing residential school related issues that come up in the course of their work.
5.We know from experience that this type of workshop will stir up feelings and also really get many people thinking about the issues and very alert to looking for relevant patterns in their daily contact with the community.
          We propose a 2-week processing and observation period, after which staff are asked to share additional thoughts and feelings in a 1-day workshop. One method we have used with success is to ask participants to keep a journal, but we propose to decide on the best approach in consultation with staff.
        6.We propose to ask staff to choose a representative steering committee of 5 - 8 people to guide us through subsequent stages.
Upon completion of the above steps, we will prepare a learning needs assessment report. This report would be reviewed by the steering committee, edited as required, and a final version would be submitted.

The report would contain:

4.1 a detailed description of the issues and topics to be addressed in the curriculum;

4.2 a description of the learners, their needs, learning styles, preferences, etc.

4.3 a description of the cultural, social, and professional context within which the learning will occur;

                    4.4 a description of the learning outcomes required; 4.5 suggestions (in broad strokes) of how the main outcomes might best be achieved; and                     4.6 indicators for measuring the effectiveness of the learning.
Time and Costs Summary
***Based on size and scope of project.***

The Curriculum Development Phase

Based on the outcomes of Part I, our team would develop an intensive learning program and a curriculum guide (on series of guides) for the process. Typically, our learning programs have the following features.

-A series of short, intensive workshops with periods of on-the-job application between sessions (for example, one 2-4 day session per month for four months).
-The curriculum logic moves from the self to family to significant relationships to groups and organizations to community to nation and beyond, and wholistically addresses intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual as well as political, economic, social and cultural dimensions of life.
-Is concrete and specific to local realities, needs, and grounded in participants’ experience.
-Is experiential.
-Uses a lot of stories, activities, laughter, play exercises and games to enhance learning.
-The curriculum is to a large extent learner-centered, learner-guided, and learner-driven related to pace and the choice and flow from a menu of activities.
-The curriculum is to some extent iterative; that is it is flexible enough to adapt and change to meet changing learner requirements.
-Culturally appropriate approaches to the learning process are carefully observed, especially related to respecting community protocols around sensitive cultural issues, in the way local knowledge is consulted and respected, and in the way learning relationships are fostered and maintained.
Our programs usually require both instructor guides and student materials. In this case, we would expect to collect materials as well as to have to design original reading and other materials.

As well, our programs usually have a practicum element that is mentored. Whether or not this is required will be determined through the needs assessment.


Our experience related to the residential schools tells us that there are a broad range of issues that are tied to the impact of residential schools in most Aboriginal communities. Some of these include:

These and many other issues all need to be seen in the context of intergenerational trauma. The research on healing from the legacy of trauma describes stages and processes that, in part, go beyond most current paradigms of counselling and therapy, and actually include systematic re-learning and the building of new patterns of life (which in effect is social and economic development).

All to say that a major curriculum development challenge will be to cover enough, but not to try to cover too much and to keep the learning directly focused on your community’s realities and needs.

At this early stage, we estimate that a series of four, four-day training sessions will be required spread over 6-8 months. These workshop sessions would be divided into classroom sessions (60%) and work team mentoring sessions (40%).

Delivery of Training

We have offered a preliminary estimate of how many sessions will be needed and what shape those sessions might take without the benefit of the needs assessment, which will of course be designed to pinpoint what exactly is needed. We have proposed a series of learning sessions, each consisting of roughly 60% workshop/classroom sessions and 40% on-the-job mentoring related to the application of what is being learned in the program.

We would also use the field portion of the training for evaluation of the impact of the training (called for in Part I).

We have outlined (in Part II above) some of the general characteristics our approach to training usually has (culturally appropriate, learner-centered, experiential, etc.).

We have also stated that our curriculum is always designed to be open-ended enough to be able to change as new learning needs emerge as a result of the process (some educators call this "emergent outcomes").

Issue: An issue (for us) inherent in this entire project is the fundamental idea that viewing needs assessment, curriculum design and training delivery as separate but related projects that could be done by different providers may somewhat inhibit the capacity of providers to adjust the process to fit emergent learning outcomes. Unless those delivering the training are also competent curriculum developers, and also competent in reading emergent patters of needs, they might well be inclined to follow a prescribed curriculum like a script (rather than as a menu of options) regardless of the needs. An example of what could unfold is that some staff may have their own accumulated patterns of hurt re-stimulated by discussions of the abuse and trauma of others, and they may require processing time, support and additional learning in order to be able to productively deal with those feelings.

Following such an interlude, trainers will need to adjust (i.e. redesign) the entire workshop, making judgments about what to take out and what to stress, given the loss of a significant portion of planned time (the budget will of course place boundaries on the time available).

We raise this to argue that Four Worlds/Four Directions can offer an integrated team approach capable of addressing all of these issues effectively.

B. About Four Worlds/Four Directions

Four Worlds has worked in Aboriginal community healing and development since the early 1980s. We are known for our part in making the Alkali Lake movie ("The Honour of All," Parts I, II, and III), for our extensive range of curriculum materials which we developed, including the "Adult Education" series, and a wide range of adult learning materials and programs; for our direct work with communities in healing and community development processes, and for our extensive work as capacity builders of community level organizations.

Some current projects we are working on include the following:

The team we propose for your project would include:
Phil Lane, Jr. (Dakota/Chickasaw Tribes) — Phil is internationally recognized for his work in culturally-based community healing and development.
Michael Bopp, Ph. D. — Michael is a specialist in community-based research in the design of learning programs, and in capacity building for community healing and development.
Judie Bopp Judie is a curriculum specialist with many years of experience in designing and delivering culturally appropriate training related to community healing.
Cruz Acevedo, Ph. D. — Dr. Cruz (as he is affectionately known by the many Aboriginal communities he has worked with) is a specialist in helping Aboriginal communities address the efforts of accumulated trauma and abuse.
C. Demonstration of Our Ability
-Ability to develop a complete training needs assessment and follow-up evaluation — We have done so many times. Our Masters Degree Program began with a Kellogg Foundation grant to conduct a training needs assessment with US based tribes related to community healing and development. An evaluation was part of the package. The result is our new, up-and-running Masters Program.

-Cultural sensitivity — Our methodology is always participatory, which means cultural insiders must take the lead as co-authors of any process we undertake. We have worked in hundreds of indigenous communities very successfully in this way.

-Appropriate evaluation methodology for your context — We don’t import tools and methods; we develop them in partnership with our local counterparts to fit each cultural/community situation setting.

[Note: The approach we have proposed of involving staff and a local steering committee as partners in researching and identifying (from the inside-out) both the community realities and learning needs illustrates how we will ensure that our approach is culturally/community appropriate.

-Ability to develop relevant curriculum — See our package of materials sent as an adjunct to this proposal (by courier from Lethbridge and Calgary)

-Demonstrated understanding of the impact of residential schools — Our video "Healing the Hurts" was one of the first (if not the very first) learning video produced in Canada related to the trauma of residential schools. Our study "Community Healing and Aboriginal Social Security Reform" carried out for the Assembly of First Nations directly addresses the residential school issue, and we are currently providing support to a major class action suit by over 500 plaintiffs to seek compensation for the trauma of residential schools.

-Ability to deliver training related to clinical skills for front line staff — Much of our work with community program and treatment centre staff is directly related to clinical skills (i.e. skills required to foster healing and growth). As well, our Masters Program (in partnership with the California School of Professional Psychology) directly addresses this area.

Prepared by:
Phil Lane Jr.
347 Fairmont Blvd.
International Coordinator Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada T1K 7J8
Four Worlds International Institute Telephone: (403)320-7144
Email: Fax: (403)329-8383

Michael Bopp, Ph. D.
P.O. Box 395
Coordinator Cochrane, Alberta Canada T0L 0W0
Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning Telephone: (403)932-0882
Email: Fax: (403)932-0883

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