“Healing justice is a framework that recognizes the impact of trauma and violence on individuals and communities and names collective processes that can help heal and transform these forces. In a system and society that actively targets Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies with violence, oppression and terror, it is critical to build movements that fight for and achieve justice for all people. This justice includes healing, well-being, and not only surviving, but thriving. Resiliency and healing are strategic – we need everyone in our movements to have access to healing from trauma and violence as it strengthens all of us and all of our movements.”
~ Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Indigenous Climate Action, Co-founder & Healing Justice Director
In the era of climate change and vast social inequality, when everything is urgent and we often feel we must do everything in our power to push for change – what happens when your body says no?
Indigenous Climate Action has been working through this question very intentionally for the last year – enacting new processes to help support our Indigenous leaders to be able to heal, to work, and to live within the context of our hurting world. We came to a place where finally addressing this was not just the right thing to do, but the necessary thing to do.
Two of Indigenous Climate Action’s leaders and co-founders, Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Eriel Deranger, have been working for climate justice and Indigenous rights all their lives. Melina’s first experience being on the frontline was at the age of 7, where her community and family were blockading a road into their territory for logging, oil and gas exploitation. She has been a frontline community organizer since she was a teenager. Eriel’s life began on the frontlines in 1979, when Eriel and her sister were infants, her family was forcibly removed by gunpoint from their territories to make way for Uranium exploration and extraction and Eriel continued to champion the protection of their homelands ever since. Being Indigenous women at the front line of so many battles for environmental and social justice takes its toll over years and decades. After 20 years of Indigenous rights work, community organizing, and frontline land defense, Melina and Eriel both faced major health crises. Melina’s health crisis was so severe that she became bed-ridden for several months. Eriel’s body (and doctors) were beginning to tell her to stop working through chronic pain and injuries. The psychological stress of doing this hard work and living life as an Indigenous woman makes itself known through the body. The immense impact is felt intimately but goes unseen and unsupported by our wider society – and unfortunately in many movement and philanthropic spaces.
We see this more broadly in Indigenous communities: the intersection of environmental racism where homelands are destroyed, the trauma of social inequality and violence, and the constant need to assert basic rights in an unwelcoming society leads to a variety of overlapping mental and physical health challenges for many. On top of this, the culture of extraction that defines capitalism is a layer that seeps into every aspect of life – extraction on the land, akin to extraction of time, stories, knowledge, and energy – extraction as a mindset and way of being. Indigenous Climate Action is seeking to transform extractivism in all aspects of what we do – both in our climate justice work fighting the extraction of fossil fuels, and in fighting extraction of the very spirit of Indigenous Peoples. Through our emerging Healing Justice pathway, we are at the onset of researching and building new ways of being that bring about restorative, decolonial practices and tools that strengthen the health of our bodies and whole selves. We know this is a crucial foundation for Indigenous Peoples to thrive in a just climate future.
With the support of Indigenous Climate Action and close community allies, Melina and Eriel were able to take time for wellness sabbaticals in 2019 and 2020 and set an example of what healing justice can look like. The wellness sabbatical is the first of its kind of program that honors the need for healing from years of frontline work. This program provided time and support for the crucial components for recovery to happen; support for healing therapies, and reflective space from the constant pressure for reactivity that our current culture elicits. This essential time and space enables people to begin to process trauma, return to ceremony, learn somatic healing practices, transform and ideally show up in different ways – which we believe is needed for the radical change required of all of us for a better future.
Melina has shifted from being ICA’s Director of Programs into a brand new role which we see as critical to our organization and movement – Director of Healing Justice. Melina will be drawing on her own experience of stress, trauma, and healing to develop a holistic program for ICA’s work. This will not only influence ICA’s internal operations as a team, but will also overlay our programming for youth, our trainings, gatherings, our project work for energy sovereignty and a Just Transition, and every aspect of what we do.
The global Coronavirus pandemic has made the need for our healing justice work more urgent and poignant. We know that this pandemic is a result of the devastation of our lands, ecosystems, and relationship to nature, bringing balance to our own bodies is intimately tied to bringing back the balance of the natural world and halting its ongoing destruction if we are going to avert this and future pandemics. Indigenous Climate Action is looking forward to integrating what we as a network are able to unearth, create and implement to help not only ICA but our movement spaces as a whole. This work is part of the systemic change and solutions building we seek to do.
Healing is Justice.
For more information about ICA and our Healing Justice program reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org