Cultivating Safe Spaces with Elaine Alec

2021-04-13 Share story


The team at Animikii first met Elaine during a virtual retreat, where she presented the importance of knowing one’s self and the effects and impacts of vicarious trauma, particularly in the workplace. 

On April 11-12, 2021, Thunderbirds Jen Polack and Robyn Ward attended Elaine Alec’s workshop called “Cultivating Safe Spaces”. In this workshop, they learned about ways to promote safe spaces at home and work grounded in 4 perspectives - Tradition, Relationship, Action, and Innovation - using 4 Protocols - Wellbeing, Inclusion, Validation, and Freedom. 


From this work, we are excited to examine how we can incorporate the promotion of Wellbeing, Inclusion, Validation, and Freedom into Animikii’s highly collaborative atmosphere to ensure that everyone in the space has an opportunity to be and be heard in peace and comfort.

Promote Wellbeing - Take care of each other and practice self-care.

Promote Inclusion - Every person in the meeting is given an opportunity to speak.

Promote Validation - Everyone practices active listening and witnessing. This can be the most challenging protocol because it requires discipline and patience with each other.

Promote Freedom - Everyone has different experiences. Some people may be comfortable with protocols and sitting for long periods of time and others may have difficulty doing so for a variety of reasons including health and dietary issues. Freedom acknowledges that in order to have a space that is safe, people need to know they have a choice. This is an invitation to all participants to take breaks, eat, or provide self-care when needed.


One of our favourite lessons that Elaine shared with us is that traditionally when youth in her community would go to the Elders to ask for advice, the Elders would respond, “You know the answer. Go to the water and wait for it.” 

The Teaching is that each person needs to have faith in themselves. No one can give you the answers to the questions you seek but you. You know the way, in your heart. Only you have the knowledge, power, and wisdom to know your heart; to know yourself enough to lead you in your next right steps.

Another favourite teaching is, “The quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask yourself.” Elaine begins her circle with the questions “Who am I?”,  “Who do I belong to?”, and “What’s on my heart?”. One of the secrets to cultivating a safe space starts with knowing and understanding yourself through asking these quality questions. 

We’ve provided a short blog summary here of the tools to Cultivate Safe Spaces, but we highly recommend attending one of Elaine’s marvellous workshops to see these perspectives and protocols in practice and to learn how to use them to connect, learn and grow.


About Elaine Alec

Elaine Alec (she/her) is a Syilx and Secwepemc author, political advisor, women’s advocate and spiritual thought leader and teacher and is a direct descendant of hereditary chiefs, Pelkamulaxw and Soorimpt.

For over two decades, Elaine has been a leading expert in Indigenous community planning, health advocacy and creating safe spaces utilizing Indigenous approaches and ceremony.

She is the author of “Calling My Spirit Back” a book that links an extremely personal examination of lived experience to a much broader overview of serious national sociological concerns, accompanied by tangible steps to approach them.

Alec was a founding member of the Comprehensive Community Planning Mentorship Initiative in British Columbia. She is a founding partner at Alderhill Planning Inc. and is a regular speaker at conferences and workshops on the topic of Indigenous planning, governance, healing and trauma-informed approaches in planning.


She is involved in the Sexual Harassment, Advice, Response and Prevention for Work Places Advisory Committee, a board member with the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives (CCPA-BC) and recently completed a 3-year term as the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Women’s Representative where she advocated for Indigenous women and girls safety through facilitating safe spaces to plan and drive policy change at various levels of government.

Elaine resides in Kamloops, British Columbia with her husband Ryan Day and is the proud mom of Kyle, Raven, Phoenix and Teslin.

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