University College of the North had developed a Manitoba midwifery program with a core aboriginal focus in 2006. This program, designed to help provide birth support to mothers in communities lacking complete medical facilities, or to assist women wanting a more traditional birth experience, was nationally unique, in that they were located far from an urban centre, and focused on admitting only indigenous students.
I have been interested in this program for many years, first as a student who desperately wanted to enter midwifery in a time before midwifery was a viable university program (UBC, McMaster & Ryerson Universities all now have well developed 4-year programs). This program was plagued with issues, including having problems recruiting and retaining students, and difficulties having students deliver enough babies for graduation (there is a mandatory minimum birth attendance required). Ultimately only 8 students graduated from this program, with the majority of them being non-aboriginal. Instead of meaningful examination of why or how indigenous students were not attracted to or able to stay in the program, the province determined that it was best to overhaul the program and move it under the umbrella of the University of Manitoba’s broader medical program.
Based on the information released, it does not seem that this program was given evaluation to allow it to succeed.
The University of Ottawa hosts an interesting website & blog called the Indigenous Health Research Group, which brings together a group of researchers (the primary focus in this case being local dietary and physical activity practices/habits) and indigenous communities and remote First Nations in Canada’s north.
I was interested in their blog and other materials because the research focuses so heavily on collaboration with communities rather than strict ‘intervention’. For example, these researchers (a very interdisciplinary team) work to help increase access to traditional/wild foods, and help to encourage traditional cultivation, or to encourage things like the Bison hunt in generations who may not have experienced these traditional activities. This helps disparate/isolated communities to regain their self-reliance and to diminish their need for imported foods.
This week I was really focused on trying to learn more about the landscape of traditional health knowledge in Canada and abroad. Another new-to-me organization is the First Nations Health Authority which is a BC-based government agency (or at least funded by the federal government) with the responsibility to:
[act as party responsible for] “the administration of federal health programs and services previously delivered by Health Canada’s First Nations Inuit Health Branch – Pacific Region, and to work with the province and First Nations to address service gaps through new partnerships, closer collaboration, and health systems innovation.”
I found this particularly interesting because it’s fairly uncommon to see first nations health in the hands of first nations groups, and more rare to see the federal government step down from administering programs like this. It also relates back to some discussions we’ve held in our Connect forums on the need to have first nations/indigenous voices really guiding the conversation on issues surrounding this specific population.
I really enjoyed the video about emotional pillars by Dr. Brown, so I looked into to other resources for emotional health. Most came linked with mental health initiative.
This document highlight British Columbia’s 10 year plan for Aboriginal Mental Health. It identifies the values the plan is based on, as well as elements of holistic wellness.
The First Nations Centre works on protecting traditional knowledge, including traditional healing practices. It seems to present their information in a way that is acceptable to the western mind.
The Assembly of First Nations has a very extensive site, including many resources and publications to do with health. The site includes information about mental health and social determinants of health.
In Hare’s (2011) Learning from Indigenous knowledge in education, there is an emphasis placed on the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge and ways of thinking in today’s educational systems. As such, I was curious to see if there were post-secondary institutions that could serve as an example and I came across the Institute for Integrative Science and Health in Nova Scotia.
The program aims to explore science in a manner that is culturally inclusive using the Two-Eyed Seeing as the guiding principle. The Two-Eyed Seeing refers to learning to see the strengths of Indigenous knowledges using one eye and Western knowledges using the other, and then finding ways to learn, see and understand how to know using both eyes together. This video explains the concept in more details.
The site is extremely well organized and could be beneficial to anyone seeking to research ways in which post-secondary institutions are bringing together Indigenous and Western scientific knowledges. The website offers more information in the forms of videos, articles, activities, etc.
I found the approach of Two-Eyed Seeing really captivating and was able to find a few more sites that are informative on the topic and its inclusion in education:
Two-Eyed Seeing: Building Cultural Bridges for Aboriginal Students
Education Programs: Land-Based Camps
Applying Two-Eyed Seeing to Health