Frank Shannon – Counsellor

Alumni Panelist: Lives Well Lived

Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 | 1 to 3:30pm
The Alex & Jo Campbell Centre for Health and Wellness
Interurban Campus, Camosun College

Frank Shannon is an Indigenous Counsellor specializing in children and youth in care who have experienced complex trauma. A visitor to Edmonton, Alberta, Treaty 6 Territory for the last 21 years, he is originally from Haida Gwaii, a member of the Eagle Clan, Haida Nation.

Frank first came to Camosun College in 1991 to take the Adult Basic Education program. From there, he enrolled in the First Nations Teachers Aid program graduating in 1993. He later worked as a First Nations Student Advisor at the college until 1996. After four years at Camosun, Frank decided to pursue further learning from Indigenous knowledge keepers, not only from his own nation, but throughout Turtle Island.

“At the time it was a difficult decision to pursue cultural knowledge” explains Frank. “But it was imperative. I understood that every Elder who passes away is basically equivalent to a library burning down. On my journey, I gained the understanding that the impacts of intergenerational trauma on my person, family, clan, community, and Nation could be moved through, and redemption could occur with traditional ceremonies.”

During his training, Frank was introduced to the Canadian Foundation for Trauma Research and Education (CFTRE) where he began learning about the impact of trauma on the developing brain. Throughout his career in counselling, Frank has worked with Indigenous children and youth in care who have experienced complex trauma. He has over 12 years experience as an Aboriginal Cultural Helper in acute care with community Elders through ceremony.  He has provided cultural resource training to frontline staff in the areas of grief, loss, and addictions, focusing on the impact of intergenerational trauma. 

In Frank’s professional practice he incorporates his knowledge of the human nervous system with his cultural teachings. He helps people build capacity and connect to their physiological resources so that they can move toward health and resilience.

“At this moment I am an Indigenous Consultant with Align, an agency in Alberta that is supporting the C92 Federal Act, which will allow Bands in Canada to have jurisdiction over their own child welfare,” says Frank. “Seventy-one per cent of kids in Alberta foster care are Indigenous – and that needs to change. Having Indigenous families stay together will help our communities to move from survive to thrive once again.”

To the youth of today, Frank echoes his mother’s advice, “to be successful in school you need to work hard and keep your vision.” His mother, Peggy Shannon, attended residential school in Alert Bay from age 6 to 15, raised three children, completed her Masters in Education degree at UBC and managed to reconnect with her culture throughout many challenges.

“My mom’s message, along with many other Elders, is to have a vision, not get stuck in how difficult it is, but think about how amazing it will be when you get there,” he says.

Moving forward with truth and reconciliation, Frank believes “become an ‘Edge Walker’ (Blackfoot teaching). Have a formal Western education balanced with an Indigenous natural law/cultural education. By managing two worlds it will help us to accept the hard truths of the past and begin redemption, repair and reconciliation in the future.”

“When we have an opportunity to share and learn it changes the dynamics of who we are, we will never be the same.” says Frank. “In the words of a song composed by Robert Davidson, ‘Have a light heart on your new journey.’”

Camosun students, employees and the community can share in the learning experience either in person or by watching it live-streamed on Camosun’s YouTube channel.

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