Good Mind Grappling is a new project aiming to guide young people in Indigenous communities to use sport as a positive physical outlet for overcoming intergenerational trauma and developing good character. Keep reading to find out how the Onaway Trust is supporting this inspiring mission of improving the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of Native youth in Canada and the US.
Good Mind Grappling is a project run by twin brothers Phillip and Thomas Barreiro, Wolf-clan Mohawks from the Akwesasne community and multi-time Canadian national Greco-Roman wrestling champions. Skilled coaches in both grappling and youth development, the idea for the brothers’ project was born from the success they experienced the first time they mentored a young man in their home community of Akwesasne. With their support and guidance, the young man was able to overcome obstacles in order to become Akwesasne’s first New York High School State wrestling champion and to go on to graduate from university.
Phillip and Thomas now wish to take their coaching and mentoring to the next level, with a dedicated project designed to have a wider reach and even greater impact on Indigenous youth throughout Canada and the US. Good Mind Grappling will strive to address trauma in these often marginalised and under-funded communities, with a complete and holistic curriculum providing at-risk and wounded young people with productive coping strategies, invaluable transferable skills and a positive outlet for their emotions. In this way, they hope to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and help the next generation to move forward with healthy and responsible habits for life.
Children and young people in Native American and First Nations communities, such as Akwesasne, unfortunately suffer from higher-than-average rates of traumatic events, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than their non-Indigenous peers. A link has been found between these ACEs (i.e. violence, abuse and neglect) and negative outcomes in mental and physical health. This puts Indigenous youths at an immediate disadvantage due to intergenerational trauma inherited from their ancestors as a result of the colonisation of their lands and subsequent assimilation policies that have disrupted their communities.
However, these communities have further issues to contend with, with poverty bringing the challenges of food insecurity and a lack of funds for sports programmes, which can often be expensive. Indigenous children are faced with limited access to sport and recreational activities as well as an increased need for positive role models and mentors who can guide them to overcome the many difficulties they face and help to set them on a good path.
GOOD MIND GRAPPLING
Good Mind Grappling was devised with these issues in mind, drawing on the Haudenosaunee concepts of Kan’nikonhrí:io (the Good Mind) and Wake’nikonhrèn:ton (the Clouded Mind), or the disparity between a mind clouded by grief, anger and trauma and a mind which is clear in thinking and able to deal with challenges productively.
The Barreiro brothers’ aim is to help young people from Akwesasne and Haudenosaunee communities move from a Clouded Mind to a Good Mind and to begin to heal from the intergenerational trauma their people experience. They will achieve this by providing coaching in grappling, a sport with countless benefits which will allow participants to have fun while developing discipline, confidence, and physical, emotional and social skills, such as teamwork and a strong work ethic.
In addition, the holistic programme will be underpinned by mentoring in resilience factors such as physical literacy and social-emotional learning, allowing young people to learn the crucial skill of understanding and regulating their emotions in a healthy way while gaining transferable movement skills and becoming more resilient both physically and mentally. In this way, the project will provide Akwesasne youth with a lifelong love of learning as well as an appreciation of their own physical capacity, all while celebrating and practising their native culture.
Grappling and wrestling are not only sports which are inclusive for a wide range of different body types, but they are also lower in cost in comparison to other sports due to a minimal requirement for equipment. This makes grappling more accessible to communities with fewer resources and opportunities. The programme will not focus on promoting competitiveness, but rather the wide range of benefits that youth can gain from participation.
The Onaway Trust is proud to have been the first financial supporter of Good Mind Grappling, contributing vital seed funding to help get the project off the ground. The organisation has also partnered up with the Akwesasne Boys’ and Girls’ Club and plans to serve over 200 Akwesasne youth in conjunction with their summer programmes.
Looking to the future, Phillip and Thomas envision training up more coaches and expanding their project to more Indigenous communities in Canada and the US, as well as delivering their programmes year-round. In this way they will be able to continually increase the reach of their mentoring and have an impact on the lives of even more young people in need.
However, none of this will be possible without the encouragement and support of those who share their vision of justice and a better future for Indigenous youth. If you would like to find out more or make a donation to Good Mind Grappling, please get in touch.