Cultural Interventions

What are cultural interventions?

Spiritual wellness creates Hope, and is expressed through values, belief and identity; emotional wellness creates Belonging, and is expressed through family, community, relationships and attitude; mental wellness creates Meaning, and is expressed through rationale, intuition and understanding, and physical wellness creates Purpose and is expressed through a way of being, way of doing and wholeness. It is said that what the Creator gave to his/her children to live in this physical world in a good way, was given forever. This means that the answer to addressing substance use issues exists within Indigenous culture. Culture is the facilitator of spiritual expressions.

List of common cultural interventions

  • cleansing/sweat lodge ceremony; prayer; singing
  • traditional teachings/education
  • fasting ceremony; naming ceremony
  • feast for our ancestors/loved ones who have gone on
  • medicine people/traditional practitioners
  • social/cultural activities; language
  • ceremonial practice (unspecified)
  • creation story; talking circle
  • dancing; storytelling; use of natural foods/medicines
  • land based activity
  • give away dances/ceremony
  • hunting/fishing/hide making
  • dream interpretation
  • use of cultural instruments
  • Elders
  • Language


How do cultural interventions help create wellness?

Cultural interventions provide Hope for our future grounded in a sense of identity and a belief in spirit. They provide a sense of Belonging and connectedness within our families, our community and our culture. They provide a sense of Meaning in our lives and that our communities are part of Creation and have rich history. They provide Purpose, whether through education, employment, or cultural ways of being and doing. Individuals who remain well connected to their community through group events (gatherings, feasts, ceremonies) and their family and the land may be less likely to engage in risky substance use, and therefore face fewer secondary risks.

How are cultural interventions carried out?

Cultural interventions are facilitated by individuals who have sanctioning of their skills and knowledge in culture because they live the culture and have been recognized by both the cultural teachers/community and the Spirit to lead or facilitate a certain cultural activity. Foundational to cultural interventions is Indigenous language. Every cultural intervention has primary meaning in the language, for example, social and ceremonial songs are primarily in the Indigenous language. Similar to various western theoretical models that require specific knowledge and skill to effectively address substance use issues and mental health issues, cultural interventions require the facilitation of a cultural practitioner or Elder who has been sanctioned for the specific practice.

Benefits of cultural interventions

People will experience differences in the benefits of cultural interventions – some may experience the benefit more at a spiritual level while others more at a physical level. While this may be the case, one thing is certain—every cultural intervention attends to the whole person. There is no one cultural intervention that will only attend to one aspect of a person’s being.


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