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January 25, 2023

Healing from trauma and addiction begins with a return to our mother, the land – Grand Chief Daniels


ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — Today, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is unveiling a new Harm Reduction Program and Land-Based Healing Fund. The Harm Reduction Program aims to help keep our loved ones who use substances safe and offer positive change through minimizing harms; while the primary focus of the healing fund is to provide opportunities for those struggling with substance use to seek healing on the land.

“We know that the land, along with our culture and languages, is medicine. Including people who may be using substances in land-based and cultural activities promotes healing and wellness,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “SCO is concerned about an ongoing crisis in terms of drug overdoses resulting in our loved ones dying. These new initiatives are one way we are working to address the overdose crisis in a culturally relevant way.”

“When it comes to dealing with trauma and addictions, this new fund will help to provide hope as we look to promote healing in our Nations,” said Swan Lake First Nation Chief Jason Daniels. “The new Harm Reduction Program will seek to raise awareness and share education on ways we can help to protect our relatives who use substances. It will also provide supplies to First Nations to help minimize the harms associated with using substances.”

SCO has a harm reduction specialist on staff who is able to provide harm reduction supplies at no cost. This specialist is also available to make presentations that can help to promote destigmatize and raise awareness around the importance of using a harm reduction approach when working with First Nations citizens living with problematic substance use disorders. 

The SCO Land-Based Healing Fund will provide up to $25,000 to its member Dakota and Anishinaabe Nations and organizations to support land-based healing projects that address problematic substance use. SCO will identify and distribute funds to community-led initiatives that promote self and community wellness and in which the land is viewed as both a healer and a teacher.

“We know what works for our people,” added Chief  Daniels. “So much of what grounds and connects us is the land  and all the living things she provides. I am confident the Land-Based Healing fund will lead to meaningful healing and recovery for our citizens.”

The recently launched final report on the 2022 Winnipeg Street Census supports the need for a Land-Based Healing Fund for First Nations. It revealed that 68 per cent of respondents experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity in Winnipeg identified as Indigenous. Many people who are unhoused also live with problematic substance use—more than 18 per cent of respondents to the 2022 Winnipeg Street Census shared that substance use issues caused them to become homeless.

“For generations, we have been disconnected from our traditional territories with devastating effects on our health and well-being,” concluded Grand Chief Daniels. “Land-based healing takes place when we return or reconnect to the land while relearning, revitalizing, and reclaiming our traditional wellness practices. If we can re-connect our citizens of all ages to the land, this will have a positive and lasting impact on the health and wellness of many people.”

For more information on SCO’s Land-Based Healing Fund, visit:


The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 83,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.

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