Dr. Theresa Maresca

Lesson 3 – Caretaker: Protector, Healer and Transformation

Goal: Understand Relationships, History, and Transformation

Activity: Watch Theresa Maresca’s interview on Video 3

Answer questions

Group discussion



On your journey of wellness we learn that building relationships with others can helps us to learn to care for others who may have a greater need for support while we learn from others and share our own experiences to help others heal we heal ourselves and transform from wanderer to caretaker.  Elder Theresa Maresca brings that experience by sharing her family and tribal history.

Theresa provides an example of this type of transformation demonstrated by another strong elder Jan Longboat who is helping women of her community heal from intergenerational abuses.

Being Connected

The American Indian concept of connectedness includes; the individual, family, and community as a part of the world, their culture and worldviews. It is believed that everything is connected and we live life with cultural values such as spirituality, story-telling, interdependence, humility, native non-interference, tradition, ceremony, and respect for all that exists in our world.  When this concept of connectedness is severed or disrupted it creates imbalance and so seeking out the people or things that help us connect are important in bringing healing and balance into our circle of life.


The history of our great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and mothers historical experiences have brought intergenerational changes in values, behaviors, and cultural practices creating a rippling effect of dominate and defeat tactics ofinto the 21st century generating high rates of diabetes, obesity and sickness of the mind and spirit among our families today.

Boarding School Experience

We hear stories of elders forced by the government to attend boarding schools for assimilating them into white society and the military style of discipline and abuse used to force those changes, but many of those elders ever talk about what happened to them at the schools.

Much of the violent discipline even death was modeled to these elders and their minds were changed to act like the oppressive white model of

we hear about how they returned back to their homes not the same person, they looked differently and they behaved differently.  The abuses they endured were not openly talked about and for many elders they held in the pain and many of their behavior from those traumas created imbalances and sickness of the spirit and mind also affecting their physical wellness.


After we have been wondering and seeking answers we may find a person who can help us with resources of a program or a person who is helping others and take the information to help us and to share it with others in need of this information.  We can then build relationships with others by sharing someone else’s story that reflects the same pain we may be experiencing

Addiction, Abuse, Violence Perpetrated through Past Models

And addictions as well, clearly issues of addiction, issues of violence, issues of sexual abuse, emotional abuse.  These were things that were perpetrated because that was people’s experience that was their role model.  Even if they understood right and wrong, those were the examples.  And when people fell back on their own challenging times, some of those examples that came forth were not the ones that we need to continue.

Dr. Theresa Maresca-Mohawk

When Teresca Maresca provides an example of some work being done in Canada that address’s the impact of the history of American Indian grandmother’s experiences at boarding schools that changed how they felt about themselves and the long term effects associated with intergenerational

Today we face many health problems that stem from the traumatic experiences of our ancestors, elders and family members caught in an intergenerational cycle of unhealthy behaviors.  Understanding how our particular history as American Indian people has contributed to the health disparities today will also help us to help others heal.

Dr. Maresca’s interview she shares how past models of behavior have contributed to the unhealthy behaviors observed among American Indian families today.

I think the best example I can think of related to this is the work that Jan Longboat has been doing up at Six Nations in Ontario with her ‘I da wa da di Project,’ which is essentially “reclaiming our voice.”

Theresa Maresca

The I da wa da di is open to all Native women who identify themselves as survivors of physical and sexual abuse at residential schools, or who are suffering the intergenerational impacts of such abuse.

“She, Jan Longboat believes our ancestors have left us a great legacy of knowledge in how to have ‘good well-being.’ Our responsibility is to go back and pick up the pieces that we have left along our journey of 500 years.”

Jan presently serves First Nation communities in Indigenous practices of Healing and Well-being.

Aboriginal Services, St. Paul's University College on, Jan Longboat 

Activity- Read the following article

Discuss how relationships create transformations and fining your voice

How does Jan Longboat demonstrate the transformation into a “Caretaker”?

August 20, 2008 (Taken from the TEKAWENNAKE NEWS)
Written by: Erin Tully

Kahehti:io or Jan Longboat of Six Nations has recently been recognized for her work as a "peacemaker, healer and respected elder" by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. She has also been honored as a “Woman of Peace” by the Indigenous Women’s Initiative.

Longboat has been recognized for her dedication to helping women heal mentally, spiritually and to “regain their voice”.

“The ‘I da wa da di Project’ translates to let us share our voice. I believe that 99.9% of women that were in the residential schools lost their voice, I’ve been told that they quit talking because no one was listening to them,” said Longboat. “So my work over the last nine years has been to help those women find their voice again. My work with the I da wa da di, is only a portion of the healing work I do with women but it’s an important one.

Longboat stated that living in a matriarchal society, it is very important for the women to have their voice. She recalls being taught by elders that hearing and sharing voices is the backbone of the Native society.

“The old people always said your voice is your medicine, whether it’s singing or speaking or yelling or crying or laughing. They said you can help others just with kind words and I really believe that,” stated Longboat. “I’m working to help give these women their voices so they can be restored as leaders of our matriarchal society.”

Longboat was reluctant to speak about her recent awards but decided that talking about them may help influence others who want to help people.

“I didn’t want to do any interview, I was always taught not to ‘toot your own horn’. Then I realized that it was important for other women to read this,” stated Longboat. “Sometimes you have to step forth as a role model to motivate others. Now other women can read this and say, ‘I can do that, I can accomplish those things’.”

Longboat traveled months ago to Washington, D.C. to receive her award from the Smithsonian’s National museum. They honored her with a ceremony and a Pendleton strawberry themed blanket.

The Indigenous Women’s Initiative presented Longboat with a silver Sky Woman pendant. She traveled to Hamburg, N.Y. a week and a half ago for the presentation ceremony.

The Six Nations elder’s plan for the future is to keep doing the work she’s being. She would like to see ‘balance’ restored into the Six Nations’ community.

“I would like to see us find our balance again, I’m not sure if that will happen in my lifetime,” stated Longboat. “I think that there’s a big unbalance in our society. We’ve allowed another society to come in and throw us off balance but I know if we try we can fix it.”

Healthy relationships-

Draw a diagram, picture, or something symbolizing healthy relationships in your web of life

“Teach your children what we have taught our children - that the Earth is our Mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know.

The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the Web, We do to ourselves.”

Chief Seattle

Reflection - Write your feelings, thoughts, and ideas about being a Caretaker

How do Relationships and History apply to Transformations?

What is your role in the web of life?