Business aims to help Indigenous people understand how trauma affects daily life | CBC News

One Indigenous business is centred around helping Indigenous people understand how trauma affects their everyday lives.

“My mission is to teach as many people as I can, because I can’t take away their pain,” said Stephanie Francis, owner of Spirit First Counselling and Consulting.

“I can’t take away the symptoms but what I can do is provide you with the information so you understand what’s going on with you.”

Francis, 47, is a member of Sitansisk or St. Mary’s First Nation, near Fredericton.

She spent over 20 years in the Indigenous mental health and health services fields and said during that time she also stayed grounded in Wabanaki ceremony, so she learned to blend those two ways of knowing.

She said Indigenous people are triggered at least a couple of times a day and that leads to going into fight, flight, freeze or fawn responses. Fight, flight, freeze or fawn are automatic responses to perceived threats.

“There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re not broken,” said Francis, who is Mi’kmaw with Wolastoqey ancestry.

She likens those responses to a war chief whose main function is to keep the body safe. The thinking part of the brain is like a grand council or a group of elders, which is slower to react.

Francis said through colonization and a forced disconnection to land, language and culture, Indigenous people have been beleaguered with trauma, so their war chief is strong and very developed. The group of elders or thinking part of the brain takes a while to mobilize. 

She said her business can help people understand that they’re not broken but have grown up in a country not built for them. 

“[There’s] a need to learn about trauma, to understand how our brain works,” said Francis. 

She’s a semi-finalist in the non-profit, charity and education category of the Pow Wow Pitch competition. The Pow Wow Pitch team said in an email 131 entrepreneurs made it to the semi-final round and were paired with a mentor and received training to pitch their businesses to a group of judges for a chance to win prizes and advance to finals.

There is a total of $200,000 in prizes for successful businesses.

Francis said if she wins, she hopes to expand her business and to develop video content for a wider audience. 

Marilynn-Leigh Francis, owner of Spirit of the Treaty Talks, an online meeting place for Indigenous people to learn and stay connected, said she brought in Stephanie Francis for a presentation because it’s important more people learn about trauma. 

Marilynn-Leigh Francis is the Kespu’kwitk district chief and attended a presentation by Stephanie Francis about trauma. (submitted by Marilynn-Leigh Francis)

“She helped me understand certain ailments and I think that’s something our people need to understand, how our mind works, how grieving and trauma and past experiences come together to affect how we are now,” said Marilynn-Leigh Francis.

She said Stephanie Francis does a good job explaining complex concepts in an Indigenous way and that it’s a presentation more people need to hear. 

“That would save a lot of negativity and a lot of hardship if they understood at a younger age what everything means,” she said. 

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