Indigenous Wellness in Canada

INDIGENOUS WELLNESS IN CANADA 1 Community Engagement Timeline, 2016 - 2021 Collaborative Design Engagement “Culture is the foundation of Indigenous frameworks of individual and community well-being. Culture encompasses Elders, cultural practitioners, kinship relationships, language, practices, ceremonies, knowledge and land. These cultural values are an important social determinant of health and wellness.” - Susan Chatwood, Institute for Circumpolar Health Research. The traumatic impacts of colonization have had significant impacts on the mental health and community wellness of Indigenous peoples all across Canada, and even more so in Arctic territories. Colonization has created sharp differences in social determinants of health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities have repeatedly expressed the need to ground health and wellness programs in community priorities, Indigenous culture, and land-based traditions. The majority of health concerns plaguing Indigenous peoples in the Northwest Territories (NWT) have to do with mental health and addictions. Deeply ingrained racist policies and practices in Canada have necessitated urgent actions by Indigenous peoples to seek truth, reconciliation and wellness. Suicide, loss of language, addiction, and cultural oppression are common sufferings of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. In Indigenous worldview, wellness is a holistic relationship between culture, community, and environment, unlike Western perspectives of medical care. Founded in 2016, the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation (AIWF) offers cultural programming and advocacy with a focus on Indigenous health and wellness. It ensures that community-determined priorities are actioned with and by the community members themselves - “nothing about us without us” is an important refrain. AIWF is led by Indigenous leaders, elders and healers. AIWF has the mandate of culturally reviving traditional healing knowledge and practices in Arctic regions. The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Centre (AIWC) in Yellowknife will provide a permanent space for wellness and ways of life Indigenous peoples of Northwest Territories. It will serve Indigenous people who often are forced to travel out of their community for specialized health services. The AIWC bridges a service gap between informal wellness camps and institutionalized Western-oriented medical hospitals. Yellowknife Northwest Territories: Diversity of language and governance Northwest Territories: Current Health Services map Yellowknife 62° N Elder Francois Paulette (Dene) - teaching Indigenous worldview. Team site visit to Yellowknife, NT. Elder Be’sha Blondin (Dene) - giving thanks to the land. Beginning Construction of Healing Camp in Yellowknife. Donald Prince, WIlliam Greenland Co-design on building concept and programming. Co-Design Process: AIWC developed from three years of engagement (2016-19) to define program, siting, form, and materials, and ensure it reflected Indigenous priorities and principles. Collaborative design workshops engaged Indigenous elders, healers, and youth in the design process through game-based participatory drawings and models. From this collaborative process, the AIWC is organized into distinct yet unified parts. Three volumes serve the primary functions—gathering, traditional knowledge, and wellness. The foundation established a wellness camp in 2018 and has secured funds toward the construction of a dedicated wellness facility to open in 2022. The AIWC project has evolved through sustained community engagement with Indigenous elders, healers, and youth to define program, siting, and form. It began as a research studio at the University of Toronto, led by Mason White. During this time, he met and talked with Elders leading the AIWF, visited possible sites, and developed an understanding of key cultural priorities. Government funding then enabled extensive community engagement to define programmatic needs, and select a final site. September 2016 October 2016 October 2016 April 2018 October 2018 How it Began: The Indigenous Elders Council had formed to advise the Stanton Hospital on including an Indigenous Wellness programs. Unfortunately, their recommendations were not included in the final government hospital project. The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation formed to advocate for an inclusive Indigenous Wellness services and facility. The Elders Council, AIWF, and Lateral Office began collaborative design on a permanent facility for Indigenous Wellness in Yellowknife, NT. Nicole Redvers, Chair AIWF Marie-Adele Rabesca Elder Rassi Nashilik Director AIWF Shania Clark, Mental Wellness Patrick Martel Elder Donald Prince, Facilities AIWF Be’sha Blondin Director AIWF Former Territorial Hospital Yellowknife Airport Stanton Territorial Hospital Kam Lake Community Gardens St. Joseph’s School Yellowknife, NT, Canada The building is sited on a prominent perch of Canadian Shield adjacent to Frame Lake. Yellowknife is the capital of the territory with 18% of its 19,500 inhabitants Indigenous. The city is near the tree line and the overlap between Arctic and Subarctic climates. Taiga Shield Territorial Legislature Arctic Indigenous Wellness Centre Indigenous Wellness Foundation Healing Camp (2018-) Downtown Yellowknife, Pop. 19,500 Ndilo, Pop. 200 Gathering Counselling Sharing Tradition Performance + Celebration PUBLIC PRIVATE PROCESSION Group Healing Land- based Education Ceremony Traditional Food Programme Language Services Traditional Medicines Traditional Craft Traditional Knowledge Centre Health + Wellness Cultural Gathering Outdoor Gathering in natural clearing