Regina organization steps up with support group to help MMIWG families

A support group for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, one of many programs Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services offers under one roof, is making a difference in the lives of those dealing with the traumatic loss of a loved one.

Treaty/Status Indian Services added First Nations Family Support Group following inquiry's stop in Saskatoon

Members of the First Nations Family Support Group gather at a wind-up barbecue. (Submitted by Kim McKay-McNabb)

A support group for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, one of many programs Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services offers under one roof, is making a difference in the lives of those dealing with the traumatic loss of a loved one.

"They don't need to go to 10 different agencies, or 10 different programs," said Erica Beaudin, executive director of Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services.

"It's all here, and everyone can access our programs." 

The First Nations Family Support Group was created when the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls stopped in Saskatoon late last year.

For some family members, going back to those painful memories during the hearings triggered emotional and psychological stress that goes beyond the loss.

"After the inquiry I was already in a big crisis with dealing with the trauma," said Delores Stevenson.

Stevenson's niece Nadine Machiskinic died after falling 10 storeys down an elevator chute at a Regina hotel in 2015.

"I didn't understand what I was going through, the trauma and grief of having to relive the experience of retelling Nadine's story. The staff here with RT/SIS helped me get through my depression."

Supporting each other

Dr. Kim McKay-McNabb, a clinical psychologist, has been helping to counsel the families within the group since the inquiry in November. 

"I use a lot of my western education to focus on different things that are related to symptoms of grief, symptoms of trauma. We do basic information about trauma, grief, different symptoms things like that."

McKay-McNabb said they also do beading, sew, use talking circles, as well as go on field trips to learn about traditional medicine. She said she too is on a learning path in regards to culture, and is happy to be able to learn along with the group.  

Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services has been serving the community for over two decades. (Penny Smoke/CBC)

She said she has seen the families build bonds and become supports for each other.

"We have learned in the group that there are different stages of grief, and we know when people are still missing there are so many significant traumas that are related to that. And every single family member in this group has a lived experience of that and they can really relate. You see that they really support each other."

Maxine Goforth is another member of the group. Her daughter Kelly Goforth, 21, was found murdered in an alley in 2013. She said she understands herself more and now identify her triggers, thanks to help from the group.

"They (RT/SIS) have been very helpful with the families. They have been there with me right from the get go, from the loss of my daughter, Kelly," said Goforth

"I can say the programs have been very, very instrumental in my healing on a personal level. On a professional level, with the healing I got with the family support group, I was able to get a job." 

'Umbrella' organization

Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services has been serving the Regina area for more than 20 years. It works in partnership with the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council and its mandate is to help the First Nations people of the Treaty 4 area.

"What we find is a strength of RTSIS is that we are an umbrella organization," said Beaudin.

The groups looks back on the past year, with a presentation from Dr. Kim McKay-McNabb. (submitted by Kim McKay-McNabb)

"We have an employment centre, we have an adult Grade 12 program. We have several programs like Indian Residential School survivor programs, violence prevention, childcare, as well as the First Nations Family Support Group."

"When people utilize any one of our programs, we encourage them to utilize our other services. So they can go to school or access our employment services. We are different in a way that all our services are under one roof."

Beaudin said the family support program is made possible with funding from the Federal Justice Victim Fund. All the other programs are project-based, so they are constantly writing proposals and applying for grants to keep them going. Beaudin said the community response to the programs shows the need is there.