Supporting Indian Day School Survivors: How we learned ways of knowing, being and doing

As Canada marks its first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation this week, the Argyle team reflects on a project that has transformed our approach to trauma-informed communication.

From 1863 to 2000, the Government of Canada established and operated 699 federally-managed and church-operated Indian Day Schools. An estimated 200,000 First Nations, Inuit, Metis, and non-status Indian children attended these schools. Many experienced trauma and abuse at the hands of those entrusted with their care.

When Argyle was appointed to create and lead the Indian Day School Community Support Program supporting individual Claimants, families and communities across Canada, we had to recognize and overcome the challenges of trauma-informed communications and ground the mandate in collaborative Indigenous principles.

Ways of knowing

“Indigenous worldviews are the necessary foundation to building and maintaining respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples,” explains Krystal Summers, the program’s Urban Strategy Lead. “By using Indigenous teachings to guide our actions, Indigenous worldviews and perspectives are understood and embraced.”

There are no pan-Indigenous set of principles or teachings. The team draws intention and inspiration from many worldviews, such as the Mishomis Teachings and the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

Ways of being

The multi-streamed project, led by a geographically dispersed team, encourages us to balance each team member’s unique skillsets, cultural backgrounds, and experiences. The team carries out its work “in a good way” with a growth mindset and positive intentions by participating in weekly mindfulness activities, post-session debriefs, monthly sharing circles and self-care afternoons.

“Our guiding principles are our North Star,” notes Brooke Graham, the National Coordinator. “The team encourages one another to bring their full selves to work; their patience, humility, passion, and hunger to learn and serve. The heart work is the hard work.”

Ways of doing

The Community Support Program has completed 20 community sessions and continues to visit communities across Canada in remote regions and urban centres. Learn more about the Federal Indian Day Schools Community Support Program by visiting

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