Chantai Minet on humility and embodying our medicine within
Chantai Minet (Séitaa, meaning “little snipe” or “little bird” in Tlingit) always carries all her relations with her, including into her practice as a counselling psychologist. A member of the Teslin Tlingit First Nation, belonging to the Split Tail Beaver Clan, Minet grew up in Teslin, Yukon and now lives in Calgary, Alberta. Minet also proudly recognizes her mixed heritage as an Indigenous woman with settler European and Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese) backgrounds.
Minet became drawn to psychology through her own journey of healing and through a desire to help others access their medicine within. For the “Seventh Generation: Indigenous Wellness Series” Minet shares some of her knowledge through the seven sacred teaching of “humility.”
Walk me through your journey of how you came to be a counselling psychologist?
I hold the idea that we are our own medicine, as truth. I'm passionate about creating space for people to access their own medicine – the medicine that comes through them and that exists within them, “them” meaning all their relations. Some medicine comes through us individually, some comes through us also collectively, vicariously, intergenerationally, and through the land and through all of the things beyond.
That's really where my work has landed itself in this current season. How I got here was essentially reckoning with all sorts of different things coming up in my own life and around me where I was experiencing all these parts of myself, and coming from a mixed background, there's so much that comes with that. I had to go through my own very long and in-depth healing journey, that I'm still on, to integrate all those parts of me and to feel whole and to feel my right place in this world.
Why is it important that we have Indigenous representation and inclusion in the health and wellness industry?
I believe that every person, every soul, has the right to expression, has the right to existence, has the right to be heard and to be valued. With that, Indigenous representation is paramount because historically, there hasn't been a fair or appropriate amount of that happening; Indigenous voices being heard and being valued. I think that it's really important for those of us who identify as Indigenous to see ourselves in places where we've been historically told we don't belong. We need to see ourselves in places of leadership and we need to see ourselves with the capacity and the ability and the resources to create change and to create wellness in the world because inherently it’s a gift we all share. We still have access to all our medicine, our strength, our power, our song, our dance, our joy and our spirit. For me, that’s the story that needs to be told.
On a personal level, I have younger sisters and I have nieces and nephews and one day I might have kids and it’s really important for me to know that I’ve lived a life that has shown them, to the best of my ability, that they can have what colonial mindset has told them they cannot have, and they can take up any space that they believe is for them.
Tell me a bit about your wellness session within the “Seven Generation: Indigenous Wellness” series and the seven sacred teaching it is related to?
There’s a quote [by Richard Wagamese] and I really landed in that quote to situate myself in the place of humility and what that really meant. When I approached the [session] and I was given the teaching of humility, I had to go out to the land, and I had to sit and I had to humble myself and wait. I wasn’t entirely sure who I was to speak on humility and what place I held in that conversation, but I sat long enough that I trusted that I’ve been given this opportunity because there’s something that wants to come through me and the word that came was in my Tlingit language. It’s Tlél sh kadushéix̱' and it means that “people don’t praise themselves,” and it really embodies that feeling of humility when we go into any situation in our lives and we do it out of a sense of knowingness.
It just reminded me of all the Elders that I've known and witnessed and how they never praised themselves, and they never want to be put up on a pedestal. Most medicine people or Elders that are highly respected will say things like that: don't think of me as anything special. They just do what they do with the gifts they've been given and there's something so beautiful and humble about that.
What kind of daily rituals or practices do you include in your own daily life?
Moments of quiet. That’s big for me. Slowing down and finding stillness whether that be through nature, meditation, prayer, reflective writing, writing poetry – I write a lot of poetry and I journal often. Writing poetry is a beautiful practice of tuning into what's beautiful around us, tuning into the wonder of life when it can be easier to tune into other aspects. I'd love to say I do it as a daily practice, I aim to, but I don't do it every day. But, I notice when I don't, so that's a good measure of my own wellness for me. I know that when I am not writing poetry, I am operating beyond my capacity, so it's a good measure for when I'm not filling myself up with the things that I need.
Free, embodied movement is another practice that has become ritual and ceremony for me. I move my body to connect with myself and others, to process what’s going on for me, and to find release and receive wisdom. In my work, I facilitate many forms of embodiment and movement processes which have provided me the honour of taking part in and witnessing change in folks that fills me with a sense of deep humility. In this work, I have so many moments where I find my hand on my heart and I bow down to those with the courage to heal.
It seems that your poetry really flows into a lot of the things you share on social media, is that connected?
It's not always intentional, but whatever flows through you, flows through you. My expressive practices, some I keep for myself – a lot I keep for myself – and then sometimes it's for others and then I'll share it on my platform in that way.
It’s a journey of vulnerability and trusting that who I am is enough. Psychology has a long lineage of blank slate and psychoanalytical limiting of self-disclosure and limiting of what's human about the therapist. I work really hard to show up as fully human, just the same way that I would invite any person that I am with to be and so it feels good when I share and people see and relate to it.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Follow Chantai Minet on Instagram @chantaiminetpsychology
By Joy SpearChief-Morris