For this story, Reid spends time with Jamiann Hasselquist to understand the new Healing Catalyst position within the Sustainable Southeast Partnership.
Jamiann Hasselquist, Lingít name S’eiltin, is Deisheetaan from the Yéil Sʼaag̱i Hít (Ravenʼs Bones House) in Aangóon, a grandchild of the Kaagwaantaan Chʼáakʼ Kúdi Hít (Eagle Nest House) in Sheet’ká, and was born and raised in Juneau, growing up right above the state capitol building.
“I call this my home,” she says with a smile, finishing her introduction.
Jamiann joined the Sustainable Southeast Partnership as the Healing Catalyst with Haa Tóoch Lichéesh (HTL) in the fall of 2023. Haa Tóoch Lichéesh (Lingít for “We Believe it is Possible”) is a Juneau based nonprofit that hosts equity trainings, healing events, and youth programs with over 20 partner organizations. Jamiann has been involved with HTL since 2021 — partnering with the organization on cemetery cleanup work, Orange Shirt Day events, and ocean dips before becoming HTL’s regional Healing Catalyst with SSP.
I was able to attend Orange Shirt Day in 2021 and 2022, and I remember Jamiann’s voice vividly. She described her addiction and healing journey with a strength I hadn’t seen before, setting an example for the possibility of my personal growth.
“That was the first time I felt love from my community,” she tells me, describing the 2021 event that honored those impacted by residential boarding school institutions, “I knew then that Haa Tóoch Lichéesh was something special, and wanted to just be more a part of that.”
I sit down with her, and later, as I attend a training and a dip, I begin to understand that want. I’ve been healing on my own and with close friends for a while now, and seeing HTL, with this open space for community, gives me hope for our collective future.
“HTL does a lot in the community on many different levels,” Jamiann explains, “working with youth, working with different organizations in decolonization and untangling minds. Focusing on equity, racial bias, and a lot of the deep-rooted parts of the violence that are not physical, but very impactful on our lives. I really believe in the organization, so I’m happy to be here.”
MR: How did you find yourself in healing work?
JH: I think my own personal life journey got me involved in the healing work. I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I was in domestically violent relationships. Being the first generation of someone who didn’t attend a residential boarding school institution, there’s a lot of ripple effects that are there from that.
I started my personal healing journey in 2012 and 11 years later, I’m in a totally different place. I want to be able to share some of my healing journey, the puzzle pieces that I collected along the way, and share them with other people.
I think just speaking about our traumas can be healing by getting them out of our personal body. Other people witnessing that process as well, can be both triggering and validating. It can be permission-giving when you hear someone else speaking a truth that also belongs to you. We’ve been so programmed to be silenced and hearing others come forward can be encouraging for speaking your own truths. That helps begin a healing process.
MR: What processes, places, or people do you lean on?
JH: Well, I have had to find a lot of different modalities of healing. Some of it started out in physical therapy — we store a lot of things in our bodies. And then I went to some one-on-one counseling, which led me to a women’s group that was going on through Tlingit and Haida, and that was a deep dive into our trauma as Native people. I’ve tried acupuncture, acupressure, dry needling, massage therapy, group therapy, one-on-one therapy, sound therapy, and traditional healer guided journeys utilizing Indigenous plant medicines that were demonized through colonialism. I also sat around a drum for three years.
Of it all, the thing that worked the most for me where I felt like I was actually getting somewhere was that women’s group, and then a healthy relationships group with AWARE, and later in my healing journey the traditional plant medicines I sat with with a medicine-woman and medicine-man. The cultural side of healing is really where I felt like I was opening up more. Reconnecting to my culture, and language is another important element of healing. It’s really hard to learn the language but even if you just get a couple of those phrases, and you start thinking in whatever your ancestral language is — that can be healing.
MR: What work do you want to focus on as SSP’s new Healing Catalyst?
JH: I think the biggest focus would be on facilitating lateral kindness. This includes promoting an understanding of what lateral oppression looks like — what those behaviors are, and how they’re often rooted in white supremacy culture. With work, we can begin to untangle some of that, and turn that into lateral kindness. I think that’s the most impactful focus for healing regionally because this is something that is affecting our Native communities all across Turtle Island. It’s not just one community to the next, this is systemic. It’s happened through United States Indian policies and the oppression that we received. We couldn’t voice our opinions against that and so we started treating each other a certain way that is still happening today.
Focusing on our relationships and our kinship and kindness is going to be a main focus with the community catalysts because they live in their communities, they are invested in their communities, they know what’s best for their communities, they are the ears of their communities, they have the relationships, and those are their relatives.
Other focus areas include training and increasing healing through culture and cultural activities like Lingít language, ocean dips, healing village crafting tables, plants as medicine and social emotional teachings, lateral kindness campaign and workshops, continuation of Orange Shirt Day awareness events, healing our relationships through restorative justice and with organizations seeking right relations, addressing systemic trauma and oppression through host trainings of Alaska Native Dialogue on Race and Equity, continuing to develop and implement cross-sector learning, and interacting with two full-service-community-schools on equity frameworks.
MR: Do you have any advice for individual allies or organizations that want to support decolonization and healing work in Southeast Alaska?
JH: Start within. I think organizations should have good self-reflection and see what kind of systems they might be running off of, what kind of mentalities might be there, and how trauma-informed their organization might be. It is important to recognize that we’re just the first and second generation coming out of residential boarding school institutions, and to be trauma-informed on those subjects is helpful in earning trust in communities. Understand that we have to move our relationships at the speed of trust.
MR: What impacts have you seen from healing work?
JH: There’s language revitalization happening here and there and it would be nice if it were everywhere. The language is so healing and helps us bring back the unique ways that we think —thinking before we speak. That’s actually one of the things I’m taking over in this role is the Lingít classes. We have one person, who was part of the ‘Sixties Scoop’, an Indian adoption project in Canada and they’re now learning their language. They were really uncomfortable to start, and now that we’re moving into it, they’re speaking more, and they seem to be more comfortable about learning the language than the first day. Just seeing that in a few sessions is really impactful.
We started hosting community cold water ocean dips in partnership with HTL. We have a lot of people who show up to the events and who are now going to the ocean on their own. They say that our culture and this process is healing them. Some people attend who don’t have a lot of people in their everyday lives, and that helps bring community to their world. That’s been really special.
At November’s dip, on a blustery day at Lena Beach, Jamiann smudges the group with sage as people introduce themselves. Later, as they enter the water, she’s standing on the shoreline, drumming loud.
For more information, to donate, or to identify other ways to participate or support the healing work of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Haa Tóoch Lichéesh visit www.htlcoalition.org and www.sustainablesoutheast.net.
• Ḵaa Yahaayí Shkalneegi Muriel Reid is a X’aaka Hít Kiks.ádi Lingít from Sheet’ká and a grandchild of the Ch’áak’ Kúdi Hít Kaagwaantaan. He specializes in portraiture and photo based storytelling on growth, healing, and perseverance. From 2023-2024 Reid was the Storytelling & Engagement intern hosted by Sitka Conservation Society and supported by Sealaska. Resilient Peoples and Place appears monthly in the Capital City Weekly.