SIX NATIONS — Spiritual and cultural bullying are just one of many types of bullying taking place in the community as the Six Nations Anti-Bullying Task Force begins a community education series on the bullying epidemic in the community.
The anti-bullying task force was formed about three years ago in response to a spate of bullying complaints at local schools and it’s now evolved to tackle the problem of bullying in the whole community.
Jen Mt. Pleasant is the chair of the anti-bullying task force and she told community members during a presentation last week that bullying has six different components:
-Real, or what appears to be, an imbalance of power between those involved
-The intent to cause harm
-Negative effects on the person being bullied
-The enjoyment of those effects by the people doing the bullying
-The bullying is repeated and gets worse as time goes on
-The existence of a threat of more bullying to come
Those are just the components of bullying. There are also different types of bullying – various channels or targeted types of bullying, including:
-spiritual and cultural bullying
Each type will be covered over the anti-bullying community series.
Cultural and spiritual bullying are actually forms of emotional and psychological abuse, said Mt. Pleasant.
“This type of bullying takes place when a person uses their cultural or spiritual identity to attack somebody else or control another person,” said Mt. Pleasant.
It’s when a person shames, criticizes or belittles another person’s spiritual or cultural beliefs or tries to exert control over them, she said,
Both types of bullying have deep roots in the community, especially, she said, with the history of residential schools.
The students at residential schools would end up passing that bullying on to the younger students, she said.
Even though residential schools are not operating anymore, the community is still seeing cultural and spiritual abuses happening.
“We’re seeing it in this community.”
Indigenous children at residential schools were forced to dress and conduct themselves according to Christian and European norms while being shamed and prevented from practicing any type of indigenous spirituality or cultural traditions. The last residential school closed in 1996 but the effects remain today.
And spiritual and cultural bullying is not limited to a certain religion or faith, like Christianity, she noted.
“Any person of any belief system is capable of perpetrating spiritual abuse just as anyone can be a victim of it.”
It can be subtle, too, like telling someone they are not enough, or too much, of their culture.
Spiritual and cultural abuse can also involve the use of hurtful stereotypes, forcing cultural or spiritual practices on others, making fun of someone for wearing cultural regalia, telling someone they’re going against God or the Creator for a choice they make, threatening to oust someone for their beliefs, denying the victim access to their spiritual community, making fun of people during spiritual or cultural ceremonies, and manipulating spiritual practices to justify abuse.
“Many victims might not realize they’re being abused because the behaviour has been normalized,” said Mt. Pleasant.
Some ways to cope include finding support from your own religious or spiritual community and finding ways to practice your faith safely, creating a peaceful space for yourself and remind yourself of your inherent value.