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Spotlight on Jean Erasmus, Dene Wellness Warriors

Launched in 2014, Dene Wellness Warriors is an Indigenous-owned and operated business offering counselling and wellness services to Indigenous clients throughout the Northwest Territories. Jean Erasmus, Owner and Co-Founder at Dene Wellness Warriors educates and inspires people towards a life of wellness.

Making a difference in Indigenous lives

Jean Erasmus is Dene and Cree, originally from Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. She recalls being fortunate enough to have experienced living on the land with her family as a child and having later spent 6 years in Indian Residential Schools. She is a third-generation residential school survivor, and the effects of residential school impacted not only Jean, but her family and children as well. Realizing the importance of healing, she embarked on the journey of personal healing as a teenage mom. Jean now lives in Yellowknife, along with her husband Roy Erasmus, where they run Dene Wellness Warriors. 

“We trained to become counsellors because we wanted to help people. As Indigenous people, we know how our families have suffered from the effects of residential schools and colonization, and this has dramatically affected their mental health and wellbeing.”

A professional counsellor, certified life coach, and facilitator, Jean draws from her skill set and life experiences to help Indigenous people with their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. If you ever have a conversation with Jean, you’ll instantly feel her compassion, kindness and resilience. Her passion for her work and ability to instantly connect with people is what makes her approachable. 

On a journey to build a community of healthy people who create life-changing habits, Jean is constantly helping people become aware of unhealthy patterns of behaviour and find solutions towards change. Through Dene Wellness Warriors, Jean offers counselling, wellness workshops, emotional support for events, and previously offered a program designed for men who have been abusive in their relationships.  

“As Indigenous entrepreneurs, we have been able to provide our services however we wanted without the barriers of working within an organization or for any employer. Based on our own personal experiences and therapeutic training, we are able to help Indigenous people the way they want to be helped.”

It’s heartening to share that Jean and Roy Erasmus have trained 16 Indigenous counsellors from ten communities in the Northwest Territories (NWT) and will be training another cohort starting September 2023. Currently, they are also doing a Feasibility Study towards opening a Trauma Healing Lodge – a first-ever for the NWT. 

Reminiscing about her entrepreneurial journey, Jean talks about financing and training opportunities offered by organizations such as Startup Canada. Jean says, “You don’t need a business degree to open a business, just the willingness to work hard in promoting your idea. There’s plenty of assistance for entrepreneurs out there.”

Signing off with advice to Indigenous entrepreneurs, Jean mentions, “Get a membership at your local Chamber of Commerce and reach out to other entrepreneurs. Be open to learning new skills and find a mentor. There are opportunities for new ideas and concepts when you network with other business owners because they’ve experienced many challenges on the road to success.”

Some available resources for Indigenous entrepreneurs include  the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA.) There are also various regional funds and organizations depending on where you are. People can simply google “Indigenous entrepreneurs” or “Indigenous business grants” to start. Once you speak to an organization, they will often provide you with more information on other sources!

Jean is thankful to have a business that helps improve the mental health of individuals who experience life challenges.

Footer: Jean Erasmus is a Registered Professional Counsellor and a member of the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association. Indigenous Services Canada has designated Jean to provide therapeutic services for Residential School Survivors and their families in the Yellowknife area.