The Witcihitisotan (mutual support) Committee by and for the Families of Indigenous Adolescents in the City
This article presents the process and contributions of the Witcihitisotan committee (mutual help in Atikamekw), implemented by parents of teenagers in a Native Friendship Center in Quebec. To this day, adequate forms of support for Indigenous adolescent families remain under-documented, which represents a gap, considering the particular issues experienced by Aboriginal youth in urban areas. Analysis of the documents from 14 months of the committee's meetings showed three interdependent and complementary forms of support: the committee meetings allow parents to “express” themselves (to exchange and share advice); to “engage” with one another (to listen to each other to help on the path towards healing); and to “envision” their community living their culture in the city. Implementing an approach similar to that of storytelling, the committee offers an intergenerational place to appreciate, strengthen and heal, providing for the collective learning of families towards the (re)appropriation of parenting skills and community wellbeing. The opportunity to come together in an emotionally and culturally safe place is an integral part of the strength-based decolonizing approach. This case study demonstrates the importance of fostering peer support and having a collective space that is responsive to the needs of the group. This type of initiative helps in improving parent-youth relationships and better communication and self-awareness, which would be unattainable with the often predetermined and deficit-based approaches brought in by outside experts.