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A new direction for the Onen’tó:kon Healing Lodge

(Courtesy Lori Tarbell)

Genuine compassion leads the path towards recovery.

This is the approach that guides the work of Lori Tarbell, the new Onen’tó:kon Healing Lodge (OHL) executive director.

“The staff has an enormous amount of wisdom and knowledge,” said Tarbell as she commended the ardor with which her new staff tackle their work.

“Their compassion for helping individuals with addiction is vital in making impactful and lasting changes in people’s lives.”

It’s with a dedication to promote the centre’s vision to “strengthen the healing journey” of clients that Tarbell stepped into the position on January 4.

Prior to joining OHL, the Akwesasró:non gained experience working with the Onkwehón:we treatment centre of Partridge House, as well as with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Health Services Division in her home community.

Beginning her career as a residential aide, Tarbell went on to hold the titles of counsellor, outpatient coordinator, and, finally, inpatient coordinator.

“Addiction is a common occurrence within Indigenous communities, and because of that, we need treatment centres that are Indigenous-specific,” she noted. “Gaining a diverse work experience really helped me understand that importance.”

In addition to this, Tarbell highlighted that her taking on different roles within other organizations also enabled her to empathize with the many members of her new team.

“Oftentimes, people in active addiction have many adversities that they have faced,” said the executive director. “But it’s when you can work as a team to help someone overcome those adversities that you realize the true impact we have on individuals, families, and communities.”

Along with the practical experience Tarbell acquired throughout the years, she also brings with her a bank of theoretical learning that continues to expand while she works to complete her doctorate with McGill University’s School of Social Work.

As she works towards obtaining her degree by the end of 2025, Tarbell’s study is focused on the connection of Indigenous trauma and the relation it has to substance use.

“There’s a connection between the historical and intergenerational trauma our people have faced and adverse outcomes,” she explained.

“The outcomes of these traumas manifest into problems such as addiction, mental health, shame, grief, and identify confusion, to name a few.”

Tarbell further explained that it’s when these said issues go unresolved that a chain reaction is created across generations, which is what is better recognized as intergenerational trauma.

The overall goal of her PhD is to help identify treatment modalities that are currently being used and gauge if they are truly effective for Onkwehón:we with addiction.

“If the research finds more effective ways to treat our people with substance use and trauma, then we can move in a direction of finding a solution-focused intervention specific to treat Indigenous substance use,” she added.

At the same time, as treatment options continued to be explored in her work at McGill, Tarbell emphasized OHL’s unwavering commitment to offer culturally-rooted care that seeks to lead individuals to be empowered, holistically healthy and inspired contributors in their families and communities.

Meanwhile, as the present COVID-19 situation continues to play a significant role in creating barriers that restrict the centre from welcoming individuals seeking treatment, Tarbell expressed her eagerness to do so again once it is safe for both staff and clients.

“The goal is to meet the client where they are at and move them in the direction of healing. When that happens, you witness the benefits of the hard work that they put into changing their lives,” she said.

“The strength, honesty, resiliency, and the light in their eyes when they do gain sobriety and recovery makes every minute of work that we do with them worth it.”

Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Website | + posts

Laurence Brisson Dubreuil is a multimedia journalist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, Canada. She holds a BA in journalism, with a minor in law and society from Montreal's Concordia University.

Laurence began reporting with The Eastern Door in the fall of 2020, after completing a fellowship with the Institute for Investigative Journalism, a national investigative organization.

Among many things, Laurence is passionate about investigative reporting, human rights, and environmental issues.

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