Thunderbird Partnership Foundation
Winter Newsletter 2022/23

Wishing you peace on Mother Earth –
may Hope, Belonging, Meaning and Purpose be yours in 2023!

New Train the Trainer Programs Launched in Fall 2022

Thunderbird continues to expand its training platform with two new courses introduced this fall! These courses were designed to prepare certified trainers to deliver a 3-day training course within their communities and regions.

New this fall

Wise Practices for Life Promotion TTT course

This course reflects the knowledge and wisdom of First Nations communities which is vital to connect young people with life and living. Preventing youth suicide is a full community responsibility. This 5-day course offers training for community workers to use the Wise Practices for Life Promotion website ( in their own communities. The goal is to prevent youth suicide by strengthening community capacity to meaningfully connect young people with life and living. Participants from Manitoba, British Columbia and the First Peoples Wellness Circle completed the course in October, 2022. 

First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework TTT course

The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum (FNMWC) is rooted in Indigenous Knowledge and culture-based practices. It builds upon the Honouring Our Strengths (HOS) Renewal Framework to identify core outcomes that guide all areas of mental wellness. The FNMWC has key themes that set the foundation to address essential service needs for whole communities across the lifespan. During training, participants explore the FNMWC, to guide the design of programs and services to improve Indigenous wellness outcomes, using culture as foundation. Participants from five regions (MB, BC, AB, QC, NWT) completed our  first 5-day training, September 26-October 4.

The 2022-2023 calendar is available by clicking on the link above or on our Community of Practice.
The 2023-2024 airtable National Training Calendar is being released this month (December).

The training calendar includes:

  • A link to a video that shows how to use the airtable calendar
  • Training course posters with course descriptions
  • Virtual training delivery dates
  • Registration details for each course


* The national scope of the TTT model is to increase Thunderbird’s faculty of trainers, creating a national network facilitating First Nations regional and community capacity through certified training and knowledge transfer. Indigenous Knowledge and Culture as Foundation guide all aspects in design, delivery, governance, and evaluation of the TTT model. Thunderbird’s training curriculum is informed by and includes evidence based on mainstream best practices.

Thunderbird training sessions were live during the fall of 2022

Expanding AMIS

Exciting news! The screening and case management system that has been used by treatment centres (NNADAP/NYSAP) is being expanded so it can be used by First Nations community-based substance use and addictions programs.

To support the expansion we are looking for First Nation communities with at least one of these three criteria:

  1. A strong working relationship with the treatment centres– National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) and/or National Youth Solvent Abuse Program (NYSAP)
  2. A community-based addiction program with no specific link to treatment centres with at least one of these: a day program, an outpatient program, or a residential program
  3. A land-based program with or without a community-based clinical program

We are also seeking individuals to be part of the expansion development group so the system can be modified with ongoing attention to meet community-based service specific needs.

You can email to find out more about the expansion.

AMIS supports the collection of culture-based evidence that can be used to inform client care, offers reports to support funding requirements,can provide the evidence to support ongoing/enhanced funding for NNADAP/NYSAP and community-based programs across Canada, and can support research initiatives.

Cannabis Survey Updated!

We have updated the Cannabis Survey for First Nations to continue to help communities understand strengths and gain knowledge of cannabis use.

We updated from two surveys that had separated adult and youth questions to one survey with questions that can be completed by those aged 12 and older. Twelve new parent-related questions have been added to the survey as well. 

The survey includes questions about cannabis use, perceptions, beliefs, and knowledge around cannabis and parental behaviours. It will help you know if cannabis public education has reached your community members. It only takes about 15 minutes to complete, and the data collected can help develop or modify cannabis education and policies in your community. 

Thunderbird can support your community to take the survey and learn more about cannabis use in your community! You can contact us at  

New Indigenous Trauma Care and Harm Reduction Videos

Thunderbird has created a series of “micro-learning” knowledge exchange videos from content in its training courses. They capture key concepts and information on Indigenous trauma informed care approaches and harm reduction and are available in formats that are easy to access and use.

Six of the  videos highlight life promotion presentations by the Indigenous Youth Action Group at the 2021 World Indigenous Suicide Prevention conference. The group was made up  of youth from across Turtle Island. Their presentations shared essential elements of the Life Promotion toolkit they developed with the support of Elder Ed Connors and Thunderbird.  The micro-videos share empowering, inspirational messages of youth encouraging life promotion through a connection to self, spirit, land, and community.  

Thunderbird’s training and education team is now using various micro-learning tools to deliver cultural and strength-based information that can be easily accessed by the workforce to refresh and reinforce knowledge in the workplace.

The videos can be found on Thunderbird’s Community of Practice/ Community Wellness Hub and on the Thunderbird website.

Taking Action for Worker Wellness

Thunderbird has added heat to the fire with its advocacy efforts for wellness and wage parity for First Nation addiction workers.

The need for the services this workforce provides has steadily increased with the ever increasing harms of opioids and methamphetamines among First Nations. And yet, First Nations service providers struggle to recruit and retain workers because outdated funding models mean First Nations employers do not have enough resources to pay staff for their expertise in culture and trauma. Offering wages that hover close to minimum wage means they definitely can’t compete with other employers. First Nation addictions workers earn nearly 45% less than their provincial counterparts.

Ongoing traumas along with recent events (i.e.,the opioid and methamphetamine crisis, news of unmarked graves, the impacts of COVID-19, the Pope’s visit) have combined to increase demand for First Nation program services and community workers. Yet some workplaces report up to 50% turnover rates among their workers, which leaves the remaining staff stretched and stressed out.

Thunderbird recently created a plan to address this complex issue. The five-point plan outlines the urgent need to replace the current funding model, acknowledge the need for improved funding to support wage parity, address workplace conditions, and ensure stability for these programs. This plan has been shared widely and was also included in two pre-budget documents to funders. View the document here.

Thunderbird’s CEO, Carol Hopkins, also attended the National Summit on Indigenous Mental Wellness on September 23rd in Toronto and presented information about workforce wellness and funding inequities. Shortly after, the message was further amplified through a national campaign which included online editorials and social media messages. Overqualified and Underfunded: The Paradox of Indigenous Addiction Services – Health Insight.

First Nation and health partner organizations have also come forward with strong words to support Thunderbird’s advocacy efforts. Written letters of support were received and shared to funders from First People’s Wellness Circle, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Canadian Public Health Association among others.

The cost of doing nothing will be the continuing rise of overdoses and drug poisoning deaths. Without equitable funding, First Nations do not have capacity to put in place long-term solutions to wellness. To learn more about this critical issue and see how you can add your voice to the chorus calling for worker wellness, visit our wage parity site here.

Thunderbird’s Youth Leaders in Washington D.C.

Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, alongside the First People’s Wellness Circle and FRAYME, sponsored six youth leaders to attend the 2022 International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) conference on October 26th and 27th in Washington D.C. Thunderbird’s youth leaders were involved in almost every event, in fact Marshall Morrisseau co-facilitated the two-day conference with Dr. Brian Sims.   The Canadian Leaders Welcome Breakfast kicked off the first day of the IIMHL, co-hosted by Misko Kicknosway and Marshall Morrisseau. Throughout the conference, presenters relied on skilled technical support from Tia Piche. Jenna Robar led a plenary session called Community Resilience and Growth Stories, while Taylor Behn-Tsakoza and Olivia Olson focused on work within the youth plenary. Our CEO, Carol Hopkins, along with Misko Kicknosway co-led the Reconciliation in Mental Wellness: Shifting to a Strength Based Paradigm session. It was a busy two days and we are very proud of all the good work done by all our youth leaders!

Harm Reduction National Campaign Update

It’s a big undertaking – the idea of creating a national campaign to increase awareness, engagement and action around harm reduction in Indigenous communities. Thunderbird has been working with Sagecomm marketing agency to support the Harm Reduction Working Group plan and bring this campaign to life! A great deal of research was conducted this past summer, followed by time spent analyzing and synthesizing the information gathered to determine key audiences, messages and a campaign strategy.

The goal is to create a campaign that will  engage and educate First Nation leaders, influencers, and those who support them. These are some key things we have kept  in mind as we developed this campaign:

  • understand stigma, its harms, and how we work to overcome it,
  • understand current perceptions around harm reduction and key barriers to adoption/action,
  • incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and being into the work and the campaign,
  • respect and build on the immense volume of work we have already done in this area, and
  • communicate to a nation-wide, diverse, geographically disconnected, multilingual group.

We are pleased to report that our Harm Reduction campaign will launch early in the New Year! It is well-researched, vetted, strategic, creative… and it will be effective!

Thunderbird has a Newly Redesigned Website

We have a newly redesigned website, with a new document library and many new pages. Watch the video for some of the highlights!

The Little Podcast That COULD!

After a year of bringing insightful and thoughtful information to our listeners, our monthly podcast Mino Bimaadiziwin has seen incredible growth with 12 episodes recorded, with an average of 300 listeners a month. And Mino Bimaadiziwin continues to Chart on Apple Podcasts where it has a 4.9 out of 5 star rating.

According to data 86% of our listeners are listening through at least three-quarters or more of each episode, which is great because the podcast industry average is less than 10%. This speaks to both the interview and production quality of the episodes! Our podcast gives us an opportunity to explore in depth many varied and meaningful aspects of our work. Some of the topics we have discussed include:

  • systemic racism in healthcare with Dr. Alika Fontaine,
  • life promotion and suicide prevention with Connor Lafortune and Gabrielle Jubinville,
  • the nourishing power of Indigenous cooking and harvesting from the land with Chef Jenni Lessard,
  • a very personal opioid survivor journey with Jonathan Peltier,
  • the power of Indigenous languages with Dr. Lorna Williams,
  • the success of culture-based harm reduction with Audra Stonefish, and
  • whole communities working together to provide harm reduction support through the Fire to Fire peer mentors program.


If we keep on the path we are on, Mino Bimaadiziwin should continue to grow its audience in the coming year with many more interesting topics with fascinating guests. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this first year of Mino Bimaadiziwin and be sure to help us spread the word about the little podcast that COULD!

Thunderbird Back on the Road Again!

Thunderbird is pleased to report that we have been attending conferences again in person and also setting up our trade show booth to showcase all of our health and wellness resources. This fall we set up the booth at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Annual General Meeting, the First Nations Health Managers Association (FNHMA) Annual Conference (both in B.C) and the AFN Grand Chief’s Assembly in Ontario.

In October, Thunderbird was in Winnipeg to launch the pilot of the epigenetics training! We also facilitated a one day workshop on trauma informed management and leadership at the FNHMA Annual Conference. In November our CEO provided a keynote address on Harm Reduction in Residential Treatment for the Ontario Region Addictions Partnership Committee, and a number of Thunderbird staff also presented. Our training team also presented at the Regional Round Table on Wellness and Addiction Prevention among First Nations in Quebec this fall and at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Working Together to Empower our Youth conference. These are just a few of the events Thunderbird attended in recent months! We look forward to seeing many of you in person at upcoming conferences!

Truth and Reconciliation 2022 – Looking Inward

Each year, September 30th marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This year, Thunderbird planned multiple staff-learning events leading up to this important date.

In August, staff wrapped their hearts around further understanding the traumatic effects of attending residential school by listening to the personal experiences of guest speaker Elder Oscar Kistabish. He also spoke about his experience travelling to see the Pope in Quebec this year and his feelings about the Pope’s apology. Staff asked questions, reflected on Elder Oscar’s words, and had discussions in breakout sessions. 

At another event in September, Thunderbird staff listened to Elder Joanne Saddleback speak about the decolonization of language and how it affects moving forward in reconciliation.

The purpose of these guest speaking events was to create reflective learning space to support

  • understanding of our shared Canadian history,  
  • respectful dialogue about the experiences of Indian Residential School Survivors,
  • discussion about developing resilience,
  • understanding the legacy of the Indian Residential School System, and
  • seeing our collective role in reconciliation.


To prepare for these learning events, staff were asked to watch films about residential school experiences. One of the recommended films, We Were Children (National Film Board), is a 2012 Canadian documentary film about the experiences of First Nations children in the Canadian Indian Residential School system. Another film for suggested viewing was Indian Horse (Netflix), a 2017 Canadian drama film adaptation of the 2012 novel by author Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe) of the same name.

This year’s series of events wrapped up with all staff being offered Truth and Reconciliation designed t-shirts to wear in their own communities on September 30th. 

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