Aboriginal healing in the natural world

Ashley Wadhwani, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Dr. Lyn Baldwin, plant ecologist and professor at TRU, took part in the discussion and question period at the end of the presentation. Ashley Wadhwani/The Omega

Dr. Lyn Baldwin, plant ecologist and professor at TRU, took part in the discussion and question period at the end of the presentation. Ashley Wadhwani/The Omega

For Dr. Rod McCormick, his research on aboriginal mental health and healing is a personal experience that has allowed him to view the natural world in a new way.

A professor and research chair for aboriginal health at TRU, McCormick is most interested in how Canadian Aboriginals use nature for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual healing. The types of nature used for healings are not limited, as long as they trigger an internal reflection that alters a perspective, or relieves emotional pain or struggle.

The majority of McCormick’s research has been found through listening to Aboriginals share their healing journeys where they overcome mental, physical, emotional and spiritual battles.

“[I have heard] stories about recovery from being suicidal, or about dealing with trauma from residential school experiences,” McCormick said. “No matter who I was talking to, nature was always one of the sources of healings.”

McCormick has heard hundreds of different healing journeys involving different natural elements.

“This fellow climbed up the hills behind his village, and up the power lines. He was sitting, feeling sorry for himself because he had given up drinking and drug use. He went away for treatment and when he came back to his community he was ridiculed and felt really isolated,” McCormick said.

“So he was sitting in the clearing, and he heard this crashing from one side of the clearing. A bear ran right passed him crashing into the other side. He [wondered] what that bear was trying to tell [him]. He realized that he had to go straight ahead in dealing with his problems; be like that bear and take the straight path in doing what he needs to do,” McCormick said.

Through his research, McCormick has recognized some of the healing journeys he has experienced through nature.

“I was walking to my car in a parking lot, and it was a very rainy and wet day. I was feeling bad for myself and feeling really down – I had parked far away. Then I walked by a crow that was sitting on a garbage can looking for food. The crow reminded me that my life really wasn’t that bad,” McCormick said.

Healing journeys can involve overcoming obstacles and struggles of any size, and can be triggered in any kind of natural setting.

“Even in a city, the natural world around you is there,” McCormick said. “If we’re open to looking to nature for guidance nature can provide it. It is whether you are open to it or not.”