Vern Harper is an aboriginal urban elder; for the past ten years or so, he has worked at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, helping native people who suffer from alcohol or drug addictions. But Vern hasn’t worked at CAMH for months.
He said, “They told me they were sailing in a different direction.” When I called, a spokesperson for CAMH said Vern is still on staff as a casual employee, and they have taken on two other elders and are offering additional services, based on client feedback.
That may be, but Vern hasn’t worked since April; sounds to me like he’s been dumped and that’s between him and them.
But I was curious to know why Vern was doing that sort of work in the first place. He said, “I was deprived of my culture, growing up. I want to keep our men and women out of prison and to work with our youth so they don’t go into prison.”
In essence, he has been trying to counter the cultural isolation many native people feel. How? In addition to working with people at CAMH he said, “I have a sweat lodge in Guelph. I’m an unusual lodge keeper; there are lodges for women, and lodges for men; mine is for families.”
That’s both modern, and apt; periodically, he would bring people to his lodge as a way of reintroducing them to their culture.
Whadya know? Jews have a sort of sweat lodge, too. It's called "the shvitz." But I don't think it has ever been prescribed as a cure for addiction. ;)The purpose of the sweat lodge? “You sweat the poison out of your body. You purge spiritually, mentally and physically."...