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'It takes a toll on you': Metis veteran using Indigenous practices to cope with PTSD


One Metis Veteran used his Indigenous culture to help him cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his time serving with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Clinton Digness was inspired to join the army after seeing photos and hearing stories of his family members fighting in the Battle of Batoche, World War I and World War II.

"The army gave me sense of belonging and acceptance and honour and I carry that with me to this day,” Digness said in an interview.

In 1993, he became a seventh generation Metis Veteran when he returned from the Canadian Peace Keeping Mission in Somalia.

“It takes a toll on you and you have to be strong mentally, emotionally, physical and spiritually to get through that,” he said.

The Tisdale man remembered his Uncle Fred used traditional Indigenous practices to help cope with the traumas from the First World War. Once Digness tried it himself, he found healing through powwows and ceremonies.

According to one historian, many Indigenous Veterans became closer to their heritage after WWI.

"These guys were absolutely warriors. They brought a lot of those practices and traditions overseas with them in the trenches and the guys who came home, they came home with a much more powerful bond to those practices,” Cole Nolan, who studies Indigenous veterans with the Garden River First Nation in Northern Ontario, said in an interview.

Nolan said for many veterans, that sense of culture was gone soon after they returned home, in some cases even losing their Indian Status.

Digness said reconnecting with his Indigenous identity has been crucial in the recovery process.

"I think having a strong cultural identity and having your community to come back to is all key and is all very important,” he said.

He plans to get his masters in social work and help others cope with their trauma in the same way he did. Top Stories

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