ey stelnexw: Good Medicine for Healing Connections

The Indigenous Outreach Workers (IOW) Network, also known as ey stelnexw (“good medicine” in Lekwungen), was formed in 2020 in the Greater Victoria, British Columbia area to support relatives and friends who are living unhoused, precariously housed or who may be using substances.

Members come from nations from across Vancouver Island and are proud to be Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth or Kwakwaka’wakw. The group offers cultural events and dinners, collaborates on outreach, and supports people in transitioning from living outside into supportive housing. 

Supported by funding from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF), the IOW Network is hosting seafood feasts, summer gatherings and community dinner nights that bring together Indigenous people from different backgrounds and allow them to reconnect with their culture. These events provide space for families and individuals to share meals, engage in art activities, and receive support. Drummers, Elders and cedar brushers offer spiritual care.

The funding also supports Healing and Wellness Days, guided by local Indigenous drum groups, that offer songs, prayers, and medicine and connect individuals to ancestral teachings. Sacred ceremonies like cedar brushing for frontline workers and unhoused individuals foster cultural bonds. Traditional coastal foods serve as spiritual medicine connecting Indigenous people to their land, waters and ancestors. 

35% of unhoused people in Victoria are Indigenous, and 62% have a history of themselves or family members attending residential schools. The IOW initiatives address the lasting impact of colonization, Canadian Residential Schools and other government policies. The IRF support allowed IOW Network to reconnect many Indigenous Street Relatives to cultural and spiritual wellness programming and local cultural workers and healers to combat and address these injustices.

About The Indigenous Outreach Workers Network:

The IOW Network consists of outreach and support workers from eight non-profit organizations representing various Indigenous nations, including Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwaka’wakw. They share their teachings, gifts and medicine with other, recognizing the power embedded in their cultures, laws and ancestral teachings.

Diocese of Victoria