IHRT was a group of Indigenous folks who did harm reduction by and for Indigenous people from 2019-2023. We practiced harm reduction in many ways including: 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. Below is more detail on what we did both to acknowledge the work that happened and also we hope it might give other Indigenous harm reduction groups some ideas about what could be possible.
One of our core values as a team was that how we do things is as important as what we do. For more about who we were, how we worked, and why that matters, see the About Us page.
IHRT CLOSED AS OF MAY 31, 2023 and we stopped running programs in our downtown space or out in community after this time. For more info on our closure see our May 17 open letter to community.
PROGRAMS IN OUR DOWNTOWN SPACE
In December 2021, after two years without our own space, we opened up a new Indigenous art studio and gallery. We were super excited to finally have our own place where we can connect face-to-face with folks. We ran this space until May 31, 2023. Below is a description of the kinds of things we did at this space.
10-4 pm, Monday / Tuesday / Friday (closed Wednesdays & Thursdays)
We ran this Indigenous-only space for people who want to work on art, with priority for Indigenous “street community” members who are criminalized for drug or alcohol use. People did NOT need to be sober to access the space. The Art Studio was a place where people could learn and practice different art forms and techniques, and work on / store their artwork. During these times people had access to art supplies, work space, and art mentors who could support with learning & practice.
11 – 4 pm, Saturdays (closed Sundays)
In our storefront space Indigenous artists connected with IHRT could display their work, and during gallery hours the public could come in and buy work that was for sale. 100% of the sale $ went to the artists, IHRT didn’t take a cut. Gallery space was prioritized for Indigenous artists who use substances, especially Indigenous “street community” members.
Circles, workshops, and groups
You can scroll through our calendar to see what events we organized from 2021-2023. COVID safety measures were in effect for all our events including masks available at the door. We didn’t do pre-registration, just invited people to come if they could. Each circle / workshop / group was limited to 10 people and people did NOT have to be sober to attend. Everyone who came got $10, because we know it’s hard to have to choose between coming to programs and being out in community making money so we wanted to offset that as much as we could.
Latest Past Events
This workshop is for Indigenous (Native, Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit, Métis) people who use(d) substances. Learn how to make different kinds of beaded earrings - no experience needed and all...
This harm reduction peer support group is for Indigenous (Native, Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit, Métis) people who use(d) substances and is facilitated by Ali & Avery. You DO NOT have...
Art workshop hosted by Ali. A chance to try different kids of art, including dream catcher making! This workshop is for Indigenous (Native, Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit, Métis) people who...
Health and wellness supplies
We tried to make Indigenous medicines more accessible to people who use substances. We gave away free smudging supplies, including shells, sage, and sweetgrass that people could take home (though our supply was limited) and we also grew sage and sweetgrass plants in 2022 and 2023 so people with a way to look after a live plant could do that.
IHRT was a distribution site for naloxone kits through the Take Home Naloxone program. We also had free condoms/lube, syringes, swabs, pipes, and other health and wellness supplies that help reduce infection risks and help promote community well-being.
HARM REDUCTION SUPPORT AND TRAINING OUT IN COMMUNITY
We offered harm reduction support and training to Indigenous nations / organizations / communities / people in any way we could – conversation, workshops, information, delivery of harm reduction supplies, etc. Our support and training in community included: overdose prevention and response, consent, safer sex, safer substance use, how different substances work, principles of harm reduction in every day life, sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, and Hep C info.
Education and training
We offered to host in-person training in our downtown space for groups that wanted to come to us, and we also went to local nations, Indigenous organizations, or Indigenous events to do harm reduction support and training out in community. We also offered to do support and training by Zoom or phone, instead of in-person.
Our overdose prevention & response training included showing people how to recognize an overdose and how to give naloxone. We were a distribution site for naloxone kits and brought kits out to Indigenous communities or organizations (in addition to helping access condoms/lube, syringes, and other harm reduction supplies that help reduce risks and promote community well-being).
Accessing culture in community
We tried to find creative ways to support Indigenous people who use substances to access Indigenous cultural events in community — while also recognizing that not all cultural spaces are equally accessible (because of ableism, heterosexism, gender binaries, substance use-shaming / stigma, etc). This is part of why we organized cultural events and workshops in our space. But we also wanted to, where possible, support broader access. For example before COVID we helped Indigenous people in the street community to go to a local pow wow. Community events were very limited for the first couple years of the COVID pandemic but as things opened up again we were again able to support people to connect with culture in community, for example we organized hide tanning in partnership at a shelter run by the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness.
In 2019, before COVID, we held a circle on a beach near the ocean. We hoped to to be able to do more outings where people can get out onto the land, but COVID made that very difficult as we didn’t have a means of group transport.