News from Whitehorse, The Pas, Kenora, and Winnipeg

Whitehorse airport

Whitehorse, Yukon; September 25-27: The annual gathering of the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) was held this year in Whitehorse, Yukon. Nicole, Howard and Dominique met other researchers and community members from various CIHR projects, which all have the mandate to improve Indigenous health. Outside the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, an Elder conducted the opening prayer around a fire on the shore of the Yukon river. Inside, we had the chance to view many cultural items, watch the performance of local dancers, and listen to a very funny storyteller. We also had interesting discussions on different topics:

For instance, regarding the concept of  ‘Scaling-Up’, many participants asked to reconsider its meaning. What about scaling-up the ‘quality of the relationships’ rather than counting numbers of program delivery? This focus on the process might bring other types of significant results. For instance, over the years, many former LTOA facilitators and coordinators have returned to school and/or have moved on to other important professional work, which is also a meaningful way to view the concept of scaling up.

Nicole and Howard in front of the beautiful Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon

In another workshop, the CIHR group wanted to know about our ideas regarding best practices to sustain partnerships and community engagement, we have emphasized:

  • The values and practices that build trust, such as when researchers and team partners listen to each other and respectfully work together to address challenges and find solutions.
  • The imperativeness of providing encouragements and being grateful, such as being thankful for everyone’s participation, whether is is at the training sessions, regional Talking Circles or the annual Two-Eyed Seeing Evaluation (TESE) meeting, and for all the tasks that are accomplished at the community level.
  • The research methods that ensure confidentiality and protection for participants to feel safe and supported when sharing their experiences.

One of the workshops discussed health consequences from being marginalized as it is sometime experienced by the Indigenous LGBT+ community.  We were asked to think on ways to improve this situation within our own project. So we are forwarding this question to those of you who deliver the program. Please tell us your ideas on this issue. One possibility would be to insert in the Facilitator Manual a recommendation to include talks on two-spirited people or sexual orientations, may be within Session 11: ‘Appreciating our Differences and Preventing Discrimination‘. We should also think about the impact of colonization that might have “severely damaged, fragmented, or even lost”* related local teachings (Cameron; 2005).

During this 2-day meeting, a moment was dedicated for writing messages to the families of missing or murdered Indigenous girls and women. Many attendees were personally touched by this gesture. Before sending the wishes, they were first posted on the wall that was covered by hearts filled with love and support.

The Pas, Manitoba; September 29-30: Jonathon, the new Swampy Cree coordinator, had invited a mix of new and current facilitators to the Training session. Cornelius Constant, an Elder from Opaskwayak Cree Nation opened the meeting. Rose, Margaret, Grace, Stephanie, Irene, Eli and Dominique reviewed together the Facilitator Manual, the safety plan, and the budget allocated to each community. Margaret, who has delivered the program 3 times in the past, shared her experience and answered questions about how to handle some situations. At lunch time, Rosie from the accounting office came to join us. The day ended by playing both the ‘Turtle’ and the ‘Fish and Canoe’ games. We reviewed the rules that can easily be adapted for younger players. Then, we distributed the 2017-18 materials including a USB key and the program related games to the coordinator and to each facilitator.

Margaret and her grand-mother watching the video on a computer

On September 30, Margaret watched for the first time the video that was filmed in Montreal by the Wapikoni crew that is titled: EPSI – NISTOM – ASKEW – ACHIMOWIN (Long ago, first earth story). Margaret confirmed that both narrations, Cree and English that are heard almost simultaneously, were correctly edited. The next step is to insert animation on the video, which will be done by a young artist, Raymond Caplan, who will draw various living things, such as animals and plants.

Eli and Dominique also had the opportunity to meet Margaret’s grand-mother, a cool 99 years old Cree speaker, who also watched the video. Margaret’s kokum was impressed by her grand-daughter: Margaret is a good storyteller and looks great on camera!

Kenora, Ontario; October 2: Nelly, the new Anishinabe coordinator met with Eli and Dominique. We reviewed the coordinating tasks, which are also explained in details in the coordinator binder. Unfortunately, we were recently informed that Nelly will not be able to continue her work with us. The Kenora Chiefs Advisory has now posted the position on its website. Probably in November, when the new coordinator is hired, facilitators will be invited to attend the training session in Kenora.

We also had lunch with Cindy Piché, and of course, she misses us (lol!). Later in the afternoon, we met Carolyn Kokokopenace, who has told us that being a facilitator might have helped her obtain a board member position on the Kenora Health Board. Congratulations Carolyn! This organization is planning the construction of a new hospital that will include Indigenous perspectives.

Winnipeg, Manitoba; October 3: The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has received funding from the Bell Foundation that will cover, among other services, the cost of the LTOA program delivery, which will be offered at the MA MAWI WI CHI ITATA Centre, an organization that provides many services to the urban Indigenous population in Winnipeg. Marion Cooper and her CMHA team, as well as Diana Redsky and two of her colleagues from the MA MAWI WI CHI ITATA centre have met with Eli and I in order to know more about the program’s content and materials. The challenge will be to offer a relevant program to families with various First Nation background. Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, the principle investigator, has already discussed this issue with Indigenous scholars. A 3-day cultural adaptation and training workshop should be scheduled shortly with Elders, knowledge keepers, and facilitators.

Funding: For those of you who are actively looking for funds: The next call for Bell funding application will open in January 2018.

Reference: *Cameron, Michelle. (2005). Two-spirited Aboriginal people: Continuing cultural appropriation by non-Aboriginal society. Canadian Women Studies, 24 (2/3), 123–127




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