Grief and compassion spring from author's exploration of intergenerational trauma

Suzanne Methot thought she knew what intergenerational trauma meant, having grown up in a household splintered by the effects of colonialism. The Nehiyaw writer, educator and community worker said writing a book on the subject brought out feelings and grief she hadn't confronted before.

Suzanne Methot discusses book at Saskatoon's annual Word on the Street event

Suzanne Methot is a writer, educator and community worker, who spoke about her new book at Saskatoon's Word on the Street event. (Word on the Street/Facebook)

Suzanne Methot thought she knew what intergenerational trauma meant, having grown up in a household splintered by the effects of colonialism. 

But when the Nehiyaw writer, educator and community worker began writing a book, she came face-to-face with the demons that led to domestic violence and her parents' inability to parent, having not been parented themselves.

"When I first started writing, I didn't think I had anything to forgive. I thought that, I'm an adult and I'd worked through issues with my parents," she said.

"When I started doing the writing, and feeling the grief, there were times when I had to put the manuscript aside."

She would ultimately finish the book, called Legacy: Trauma, Story and Indigenous Healing, with Methot speaking to audiences about the work at Saskatoon's annual Word on the Street festival on Sunday.

Listen to Suzanne Methot's interview with CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend:

Her book is not a memoir, but Methot draws on her own life and past to illustrate her points on how intergenerational trauma manifests in Indigenous communities, which, the book explains, are disproportionately affected by addiction, depression, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. 

"I wanted people to know that I've experienced the things I'm speaking about and that it comes from a place of compassion and forgiveness," she said, adding that writing the book eventually brought her to a level of understanding she didn't have before. 

Ultimately, the end to problems like addictions, sexual abuse, and lack of hope needs to come from systemic change, and an end to colonial control, she said.

"The solutions need to come from Indigenous communities," she said, adding that it is not effective to have outsiders coming to a community following a crisis, delivering funding or programming, and then leaving.

"We need the resources to be community-led, community-based, community-informed and long-term."

Hopeful for future

While the book explores the impacts of this trauma, Methot said she also wanted to draw on inspirations on hope for the future.

"The fact that Indigenous people have survived colonialism and that we are still here, shows how strong and resilient we are, and just how awesome are we," she said.

She also believes that interest from non-Indigenous people — particularly youth — in asking how they can help and how they can be allies to Indigenous people is heartening.

"I think we're going to be doing fine because it's the youth of the future, then they're the ones, in a way, that are leading us," she said.

"I do have a lot of hope."

with files from CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend