IHRT (iheart) is a group of Indigenous folks who do harm reduction by and for Indigenous people on the lands of the Lkwungen, Esquimalt, and WSANEC peoples (referred to by it’s colonial name as southern Vancouver Island). We are individuals who come from many nations (including nations on the island), who hold many different skills and identities, and who practice harm reduction in many ways and in many places.
Some of the work we do includes: harm reduction education for Indigenous people, communities, nations, and service providers; harm reduction support; events and support by and for 2spirit folks; workshop and meeting facilitation; organizing; hosting; and capacity building.
Why an Indigenous harm reduction team?
As Indigenous people we know what is relevant in our communities and one thing
particularly relevant right now is that our friends, family, and community members are
dying. As a result of colonization and on-going colonialism, Indigenous people are overrepresented in the fentanyl-poisoning crisis. However, we are under-represented as paid harm reduction service providers, harm reduction educators, and harm reduction support.
Access to harm reduction education is literally the difference between life and death for our people. Unfortunately, many Indigenous people have had only negative experiences with education. The intergenerational legacy of residential schools cannot be forgotten, nor can current educational experiences of racism. Education delivered from a Settler perspective centers Settler knowledge and ways of knowing, erases Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and perpetuates white supremacy. The Indigenous Harm Reduction Team knows colonialism is deeply entrenched in our society, taught to us and reinforced at every turn, and incredibly easy to replicate unknowingly through dominant cultural assumptions many times every day. In order for culturally safe learning environments for Indigenous people to be created, we must all do our best to fight colonial replications such as hierarchies, including the historical one of ‘white experts’ and ‘ignorant Indians’. Although iheart believes these replications to be unintentional, the impact is very real, especially in the current crisis.
As Indigenous people, we need to see our own identity and experiences reflected back from knowledge holders. We need education that is grounded in Indigenous community concepts and values, and taught in culturally relevant ways. Harm reduction intrinsically holds Indigenous people as the experts of our own lives. Telling our own stories, in safe places, and being able to reframe them is not only healing, it also saves lives.
We need to have spaces by and for us, where we are able to build relationships and learn from each other, to talk about our stories in ways that make sense to us and reframe the settler colonial myth, and to hold each other as knowledgeable.