Winter Newsletter 2023/24

Greeting message from Dr. Carol Hopkins, CEO

First Nations National Mental Wellness Workforce Association

Thunderbird and First Peoples Wellness Circle (FPWC) are creating core-competencies that will guide the development and implementation of a First Nations National Mental Wellness Workforce Association. This association will guide and support core competencies for the Indigenous mental wellness workforce to ensure quality culture-based services.

Thunderbird and FPWC have launched an online survey to collect feedback from Indigenous wellness workers about the draft core competency descriptors.

National Council for Indigenous Youth Being Created

The voices of our youth are so important! With this in mind, Thunderbird partnered with First Peoples Wellness Circle (FPWC) to co-develop a national council for Indigenous youth aged 18 – 29. The council, named Four Directions Youth Mental Wellness Circle, will promote leadership in mental wellness for individuals and communities, elevate the voices of Indigenous youth living in rural and remote communities, and encourage Indigenous youth to enter the field of mental wellness.

Thunderbird and FPWC worked with Indigenous youth from the Wharerata project to develop key messaging and marketing material, which was then completed and launched by Thunderbird. To date, more than fifty applications from youth across Turtle Island have been received. Thunderbird and FPWC are reviewing applications to solidify council members with a goal of hosting the first meeting of the Four Directions Youth Mental Wellness Circle, early in 2024.

First Nation Sister Organizations Signed a Commitment to Support Each Other to Strengthen Our Path Forward

Thunderbird Partnership Foundation (Thunderbird), the First Nations Health Managers Association (FNHMA), and First Peoples Wellness Circle (First Peoples) recently signed a Commitment to a Reciprocal Relationship. In the spirit of collaboration, this act formalizes, honours and respects the key roles and mandates of each of our organizations and governing boards.
Ashley and Jessica from Thunderbird's Training and Education team presented "Adapting to a Changing Environment: Virtual Training" at HOSW conference in Vancouver in September.
Several Thunderbird staff attended the Healing our Spirits Worldwide conference in Vancouver in September.

Virtual Wellness Service –BIRCH– in the Works!

It’s called BIRCH. And it stands for Bundle of Interventions, Resources and Cultural Hub.

BIRCH is a hub of virtual mental wellness and addictions resources grounded in First Nations culture for First Nations communities.

The need for a virtual service was realized during COVID-19 when substance use and addictions treatment services were disrupted. The disruptions potentially increased harm from use, including increased rates of overdose and death, due to inconsistent access to treatment. Once treatment centres resumed in-person care the need for access to pre-treatment and post-treatment care options remained. The development of BIRCH will provide increasing access in these areas, complementing in-person services, and serving as a method of harm reduction.

The BIRCH website, currently in draft stage, will feature curated self-guided content and resources related to adult, youth, and family First Nations addictions treatment centres. It will support an internal resource hub for treatment centres to connect, share programming content, best and wise practices, policies, procedures, and manage processes.

BIRCH considers the things that are common across the different cultures and how the BIRCH tree is culturally relevant to all. BIRCH captures that culture is foundational to the website.

AMIS Expansion Progress

Thunderbird continues to roll out the Addictions Management Information System (AMIS) across Turtle Island by consulting with interested First Nation communities to show them the capabilities and benefits of AMIS. Currently there are forty treatment centres and community-based mental health and substance-use services in the process of AMIS onboarding, of which three have already scheduled training dates.

To ensure ongoing AMIS system support and training, Thunderbird has created methods for information sharing, and support for both individuals and user groups by creating

  • opportunities for individual support meetings,
  • AMIS user group meetings scheduled by the AMIS team, E-Centre and YSAC, and
  • an AMIS hub within our current CoP hub for information sharing and discussion.


The purpose of the Hub is not only to increase support for AMIS users, but also to enhance the collaborative connections between organizations working in the community. The Hub provides AMIS users with a platform to access tools and resources to assist them in successfully using the AMIS database system. It’s used by treatment centres and communities that provide addictions-based services. The Hub’s online gathering area includes learning tools such as videos, pathways, and upcoming webinars, and supports open forum discussion by AMIS users on challenges, limitations, and successes in using the AMIS database.

Social Workers Union (UK) Visit

Thunderbird welcomed members of the Social Workers Union from the United Kingdom, October 16 to 20, for a week of knowledge sharing, learning and discussion. During their time with us we found some things in common including the connections between poverty, food insecurity, substance use, and lack of affordable housing. The delegation toured through our Delaware and London offices and later visited Nimkee NupiGawagan Healing Centre, Native Horizons Treatment Centre, and Atlohsa Family Healing Services. It was a very positive experience, and much was learned and shared!

Innovative App Development: Fostering Emotional Intelligence and Addressing Complex Trauma in First Nations Communities

Thunderbird is in the process of developing a new app for First Nations communities. This new digital tool is being designed to address complex trauma and enhance emotional intelligence by understanding and managing emotions.

Guiding the development process is Thunderbird’s belief in strength-based approaches to cultivate a sense of Hope, Belonging, Meaning, and Purpose.

When this new app launches, users will be able to

  • check in daily to learn how to identify and understand their emotional states;
  • practice skills towards wellness through a variety of exercises and audio meditations;
  • visit the diverse landscapes of Turtle Island through dynamic 3D imagery to learn about each area’s natural features, traditional medicines and practices, and how each relates to wellness; and
  • identify First Nation territories and local languages through geolocation technology.


Our journey so far has been one of collaboration and learning. While we are still in the early development stages, our excitement and commitment to this project continues to grow. Environmental reviews are being conducted to ensure that the app is respectful and informative; design work has begun to create an interface that is appealing, intuitive, and incorporates cultural imagery; and prototype development and testing is ongoing to enhance user experience and app effectiveness.

If you’re interested in contributing your insight as a tester or advisor, reach out to our communications team at

2023 In-Person Training Delivery Highlights

In April 2023, Thunderbird was welcomed to the beautiful territory of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw (pronounced: Kwah-kwak-key-walk) people to provide a three-day training course. The host community was Wei Wai Kai First Nation at the Tsa Kwa Luten Lodge in partnership with Kwakiutl District Council Health Office.

The Thunderbird training team, including our Training and Education Coordinator and two British Columbia Regional Trainers, was excited to deliver the first in-person Community Crisis Response Training since the COVID-19 pandemic. The training respects the unique characteristics and priorities of each community and recognizes that First Nations communities may have their own definition of crisis and capacity to plan, prevent, respond to, or recover from incidents and events. Here’s what some participants said had the most impact for them during training:

  • Liked the engagement pieces, helped to be relatable to other communities and staff.
  • Help to not feel “alone” in challenges.
  • Step by step process of different methods of crisis response planning; Asset Mapping
  • The Hope, Belonging, Meaning and Purpose part and having a safe space to do this training.
  • Spirit and culture; how much culture impacts wellness.
    The group activities and refreshers.
  • Interaction/conversation with others during group discussions.

Additional In-Person Trainings

June 6- 8 and July 18-20: Whitehorse YT, Trauma Informed Management Approaches

in Partnership with Yukon First Nations and Kwanlin Dun First Nation

July 25 – 27: Thunder Bay ON, Land for Healing

in partnership with Kasabonika Lake First Nation and Shibogama First Nations Council

New Self-Paced Online Course: Indigenous Perspectives on Trauma, Vicarious Trauma and Wellness

Thunderbird offers a new self-paced online course: Indigenous Perspectives on Trauma, Vicarious Trauma and Wellness. The course emphasizes the strengths of Indigenous peoples, using Culture as Foundation and an Indigenous trauma-informed lens to facilitate understanding of collective trauma, historical, intergenerational, and vicarious trauma. The course also investigates trauma and its impact on individuals, (particularly those in helping professions) and within communities, as well as methods for promoting healing and resiliency.

Since its official launch in July 2023, the course has received an overwhelming response, with more than 100 enrolments and counting! To enrol in the course or learn more, please visit our website at

Self-paced online courses are accessible and facilitate ongoing professional development for the First Nations workforce in the field of substance use and mental wellness. Thunderbird’s training courses support the implementation of the Honouring our Strengths and the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum frameworks.

New National Naloxone/Harm Reduction Program Facilitator Training Course

First virtual training delivery scheduled for Winter 2024.

In response to First Nation’s challenges in accessing Naloxone kits and the need for sharing knowledge and resources to support harm reduction approaches, Thunderbird established a working group in the Fall of 2021.

As a result, a National Naloxone/ Harm Reduction Training course was developed. It provides a culturally grounded approach and practical training to address the opioid crisis within Indigenous communities. Certified Program Facilitators receive a training package that can be used for in-person or virtual training. It’s made up of six comprehensive and culturally sensitive training modules designed to be delivered together or stand-alone, as determined by program or community needs.

Deeply rooted in Indigenous perspectives and practices, this curriculum provides essential training on recognizing toxic opioid drug poisonings and responding with the safe administration of Naloxone. It explores substance use and addiction within Indigenous contexts by recognizing the impacts and enduring legacy of colonization and its effects on Indigenous social determinants of health. The curriculum promotes an approach to understanding the current crisis that is grounded in intergenerational trauma awareness and emphasizes anti-stigma and harm reduction strategies to promote culturally sensitive and effective responses. It includes guidance on accessing relevant national and regional resources to support toxic drug poisoning prevention and response. The first virtual training delivery is scheduled for early 2024.

Community Wellness Hub Says Thank You!

Thunderbird’s Community Wellness Hub (CWH)
reached 1500+ members in August 2023!

As a way of saying thank you to those participating and for their continuous commitment and work in supporting First Nations wellness, Thunderbird hosted a giveaway. CWH members who shared a comment, story, photo, or a GIF describing what wellness means to them were entered into a draw to win one of two Wellness Bundles. Each Wellness Bundle included Thunderbird Partnership Foundation swag, relaxing teas, a mug, smudge kit and more!

Here are a few selected words of wisdom and wise wellness practices shared by CWH participants:

First Nations Opioid and Methamphetamine (FNOM) Survey Update

Changes have been made to the FNOM survey. They include using more strength-based language, removing the COVID-19 section, re-organizing and condensing questions and sections, and revamping the cover page graphics to better distinguish between the youth and adult versions. Feedback from previous First Nations communities and Thunderbird staff was carefully considered when revising the survey.

The renewed version of the FNOM survey has been piloted with a First Nations community and ongoing feedback will inform any (potential) future changes. For more information about the survey please contact:

Workforce Wellness Campaign Update

Thunderbird continues to be a strong advocate for workforce equity in treatment centres through engagement with the Federal government, allies, and pan-Canadian health organizations. The needs of First Nation treatment centre workers were also clearly outlined in a pre-budget submission to the federal government earlier this year.

Without equitable funding, First Nations treatment centres and programs do not have capacity to put in place long-term solutions to wellness. Outdated funding models make it very difficult to recruit and retain qualified workers to support the increased need for services offered by substance use treatment programs in First Nation communities.

To generate further awareness about workforce inequities, Thunderbird developed a workforce wellness campaign and presented it at the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide (HOSW) conference in Vancouver, and at the National Summit on Indigenous Mental Wellness (NSIMW) in Ottawa. A roundtable for First Nation treatment centres was also hosted by Thunderbird a few months ago to secure campaign feedback and discuss next steps.

In addition to consultations, conference presentations and campaign development, Thunderbird recorded a series of podcasts, beginning in May 2023, that focused on the unique strengths and innovations of First Nation treatment centres. These podcasts have been very well received resulting in some of Thunderbird’s highest listening rates to date.

A team from Thunderbird attended the 2023 National Summit on Indigenous Mental Wellness held in Ottawa from October 25 to 26, 2023.

Youth Leaders Present Wharerātā Report at International Conference

Indigenous youth leaders were part of the Thunderbird delegation that attended the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide (HOSW) conference in September 2023 in Vancouver, B.C. Jenna Robar, Misko Kicknosway, and Taylor Ben-Tsakoza presented their report about the updated Wharerātā Declaration and shared their personal experiences in mental wellness along with their leadership journeys. They ended the presentation with a call to action for Indigenous youth from around the world to become leaders in mental wellness for themselves and their communities. Their presentation was very well received by participants from Canada, Australia, and especially New Zealand.

Thunderbird set to Launch National Harm Reduction Campaign

Last Spring, after more than a year of research and message development, Thunderbird launched a 6-week harm reduction test campaign in three communities (in Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan). Our goal was to seek feedback and measure response to the messaging we had developed so that we could tweak it if needed before a national campaign launch. The response was impressive, for a 6-week campaign in only three communities, with

  • 1,361,492 total ad impressions,
  • 8,074 clicks,
  • 2,874 Facebook ad engagements,
  • 5,590 website visits, and
  • 305 website downloads.

Thunderbird has now partnered with Nation Talk to move the campaign forward for national reach.

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