In my travels online I came across this excellent news: Toronto Doctor gives $10 million for First Nations Health Care. In 2014, the school of Public Health was endowed with funds to investigate First Nations health in Canada, bringing together various faculties (medicine, nursing, law, anthropology, sociology, social work, etc). This secured endowment means that these interdisciplinary teams are now funded to collaborate and learn more about improving the health outcomes of First Nations groups in Ontario (and nationwide).
Generally I avoid the National Post because I feel it regularly publishes with a conservative bias that doesn’t align with my personal politics. However, I read the following article with interest, as it shares a letter from a physician in Moose Factory, ON, pleading for increased medical resources to his remote, reserve community. While the author of the letter does not identify himself as Native or First Nation, he has dedicated his career to serving as a physician in Canada’s far north (near Hudson’s Bay) and has 30+ years of experience dealing with the problems of distant and undeserved communities.
Again, he makes the plea for additional services (provision of medical officers of health, local health integration network teams, drug and alcohol rehab services) but also for education. The standards of life on his reserve community are below the national standard for building code, water quality, education, health and policing. Just imagine growing up in a place where it’s unsafe to drink the water, where people burn to death in jail because it accidentally catches on fire and there is no officer to unlock your cell. These are the realities all Canadians, including our younger learners, should be exposed to so they can better appreciate the injustices regularly and continually faced by Indigenous Canadians.
One of the ways I’ve been educating myself about the ways in which the Canadian system (both educational and health systems) have mistreated Aboriginal Canadians is by reading. I recently read the CBC article Racism Against Aboriginal People in the Health-Care System Pervasive: Study which discusses a recent research study indicating broad, systemic problems with the ways Indigenous Canadians are treated by our healthcare system. As in almost every document I’ve read about the ways white Canadian’s mistreat Aboriginal Canadians, the solution appears to be education. White healthcare workers need to be better educated as to the reasons why there are an increased number of Aboriginal Canadians using the healthcare system. They need to be educated about the effects of a culture of poverty, of the effects of residential schools, of lower educational provisions for Aboriginal students.
My previous post shared the Canadian Cancer Society’s thoughts on Traditional Healing and I interpreted from their findings a need for further research on evidence supporting traditional medicine. This next paper calls for the same, asking that in hopes of encouraging use of traditional healing in Aboriginal communities, that researchers focus on evaluating different methods of healing, and share when these methods do work. Furthermore, they ask that researchers look at the use of traditional methods in tandem with Western methods, in the hopes that they will provide relief for conditions, help to improve the position of women (traditionally healers) in Aboriginal society, and help to motivate Canadian physicians to avoid dismissing useful methods.
This website offers Cancer patients information on traditional First Nation’s healing, including topics like the ceremonial use of tobacco and smudging. I found it particularly useful because the website goes to great paints to speak respectfully whilst still indicating that the use of traditional healing has not been scientifically studied.
I see this as an opportunity for researchers to examine the use of traditional healing methods that look at the whole human (medicine wheel) for treatment, instead of simply treating the body (chemo), and to examine biomarkers of disease or whole health outcomes (e.g. death rates) for those treated using traditional methods plus evidence-based western medicine. Many traditional healing methods have recently shown themselves successful in clinical trials (e.g. massage therapy & acupuncture), and I suspect that there are likely elements of traditional healing that will hold up to scientific rigor and help to support their use in broader populations.
It’s interesting to see what collaborations between western institutions (like universities) and traditional enterprises can build together. One such collaboration I came across was the New Zealand organization Titoki which is an educational service bringing interested parties information about traditional Maori medicines. Through workshops facilitated by a University employed education officer and a Maori herbalist, participants can learn to understand and use traditional medicines.
I’d certainly be interested in finding ways to integrate workshops like these into the undergraduate medical curriculum and perhaps into pharmacy curriculums, given their significance to some Indigenous groups. Having a knowledge of the utility and spiritual nature of some of these medicines will help physicians respect and understand how and why their patients are using non-Western medicines during treatment.
The Canadian Institutes for Health Research have an institute dedicated to Aboriginal Health. I was interested in this initiative specifically because it is run by a self-identified First Nation member scientist, and focuses on funding and organizing research related to Aboriginal issues. Also important, they emphasize traditional aspects of wellness (a holistic approach supported by the medicine wheel) and are interested in investigating meaningful reasons and interventions to increase Indigenous lifespan in Canada.
I think that dedicated funding and a commitment to funding Indigenous researchers is a first step to encouraging medical students and researchers to pursue their interests in Indigenous medicine.
Affirmative Action is a buzzword in the United States. US Universities and Colleges frequently use applicant demographics to select students for admission, including increasing the percentages of ethnicity diverse students admitted, sometimes with slightly lower scores than other applicants. The intent of such a program is to increase minority representation at institutions of higher learning and to, ideally, decrease negative outcomes experienced more frequently by minority groups, primarily underemployment and poverty.
McGill University’s medical school is an example of such a policy put in place in Canada. I know that at UBC we have created a distributed medical program which puts our students into clerkships in smaller communities across the province in the hopes that they pull put down roots in these more disparate regions and thus help to resolve a doctor shortage. I’d hope that in addition to admitting more Indigenous students that universities are making more efforts to have, for example, Inuit doctors train in Inuit communities with the resources that are available there.
I have chosen to focus my research on the use or lack of Aboriginal pedagogies in higher education (specifically undergraduate medical education) in Canada, but I am interested in examining the landscape for use of Aboriginal pedagogies in education, full stop. My first graduate degree focused on health information provided to Manitoba First Nation communities, and to Inuit communities in the Circumpolar Health Region (which is served by Manitoba Health and the University of Manitoba) and I used to work with Manitoba Health to support Northern Medical Officers of Health, so I have a more substantial familiarity with the Manitoban landscape.
I was interested to learn of the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre which provides “second and third level education services” to first nation schools. I think this site and the resources shared there could be a great resource for any teacher hoping to integrate more content on First Nation, Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit or other Indigenous content into their courses, because it was created by FN instructors in conjunction with FN groups. This resource fills a gap that many of us recognize in the education sector.
Intercontinental Cry is a magazine/web journal that serves to “amplify the voices and strengthen the efforts of Indigenous Peoples around the world” due to the significant lack of representation of Indigenous people in news media.
What I was particularly interested in at this point was the fact that this website is very focused on using Indigenous writers to speak on their own experiences. Much of the academic literature on Canadian First Nations, Aboriginal, Inuit, and Metis populations is written by white researchers, probably due to their familiarity with the publication cycle and their access to services that help them to gain publication. Fortunately a resource like IC helps authors with potentially less access to traditional streams of publication to have their voices heard, amplified, and shared with the world via the internet.
I think this could be a useful resource particularly at the high school level, for students to read and reflect on the impact of Indigenous voices on the Web.