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Treated, Not Dying: Surviving Canada’s Healthcare System (Part 2 of 2)

By Rhonda Kronyk

You can also download this entire 2 part newsletter as a PDF by clicking here.

Many of us have it within our power to make changes – even when we don’t realize we have that power. 

For starters, we can lobby universities, health care providers, social agencies and hospitals to invite Indigenous researchers, policy advisors, decision-makers and knowledge into health care education and management. And I don’t mean invite people to take on meaningless roles where their knowledge and perspectives are effectively ignored. I’m talking about meaningful positions where the issues Indigenous patients face in the health care systems are addressed. Not endlessly studied. Addressed. They need to be positions where Indigenous input leads to the deep changes that must happen to change the statistics.

It sounds so simple – just ask and it will happen. The reality is we know it won’t be that easy. But the more people phone their MLAs and write letters to hospital administrators and universities, the more those institutions will begin to take notice. Right now, making these changes are low on their priority lists. We have to change that and the only way to do so is to make our voices heard and make change a priority.

And Indigenous people can advocate for each other. If a friend or relative is struggling to access medical care, the community might need to come together and make sure that person gets looked after.

I know that none of this should be necessary. I know it shouldn’t be on the shoulders of Indigenous people to change the system. Frankly, there should be no need to change a system that supposedly treats everybody equally. But that’s not the reality. And that means that we can’t wait for somebody else to do the work.

For myself, I’m in somewhat of a unique situation. I’m a settler/Dene woman with skills that allow me to come at this from a different perspective.

I’m a member of the Indigenous Editors Association and we’re working to decolonize the Canadian publishing industry. It’s been rewarding to watch the industry work with us by supporting us on many levels. Meaningful change is beginning to happen.

This experience has caused me to look at my work from a different perspective. I generally edit and proofread fiction and non-fiction manuscripts by Indigenous writers. But what if I were to expand that work? What if I were to approach the medical profession as a whole with an offer to help them publish articles that respect Indigenous Peoples and cultures? I think that doing so might be a way to bring about change from within because some of the doctors and researchers writing articles will begin to rethink the ways they treat Indigenous patients.

I’m not being naïve about this. We know that some non-Indigenous people in Canada will never change and their racism will continue to negatively impact people. But even small changes, frustrating as the slow pace of change is, will begin to make a difference. And if we can teach people that changing their approach doesn’t mean giving up their use of western medicine but simply means opening themselves to new perspectives, change will begin to spread throughout the system. And just maybe Indigenous people will stop dying in hospital emergency waiting rooms.

I know I’m not the only one who has found a way to use my skills to find ways to bring about change. I’m curious about your ideas about how to fix a badly broken system.

Last week’s Part 1 of 2 Treated, Not Dying: Surviving Canada’s Healthcare System. 

You can also download this entire 2 part newsletter as a PDF by clicking here.

Rhonda Kronyk is a settler/Dene writing, editing and grant consultant. She lives on Treaty 6 lands in her adopted city of amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton). As a member of the Indigenous Editors Association, she is working to change the Canadian publishing industry to ensure books that are respectful of Indigenous Peoples and culture are published. You can find her on her website or Follow her on twitter @ThisAndThatYEG

News stories pertaining to racism within the Canadian health care system:

  1. Grieving Inuit families blame racism of health-care workers for deaths of loved ones.
  2. Brian Sinclair: A man was ignored to death in an ER 10 years ago. It could happen again. 
  3. New report highlights racism in health care.

Listen to my interview with Dr. Bourassa on how racism impacts health and the importance of cultural safety in the healthcare system.


The Indigenous Women’s Justice Forum had ample opportunity for round circle discussions and networking. Everyone at my table had interesting perspectives on the criminal justice system. I made some great connections with attendees and I’m looking forward to the IAAW publication from this conference. Please review the free resource guide they handed out at the conference, Our Breaking Point: Canada’s Violation of Rights in Life and Death.


My friend and full-time employee of the IAAW, Stephanie Harpe (right), Project Coordinator (Adult Women’s Leadership) hosts a group for friends and relatives of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. Please contact IAAW for more information. You can listen to Stephanie’s personal story on our podcast interview Stephanie Harpe on Intergenerational Trauma, Healing & Advocating for MMIW.


Last week, November 7th & 8th I attended the Indigenous Women’s Justice Forum in Edmonton. It was hosted by the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) and it was an informative and transformative experience hearing from the speakers. I am planning a special podcast episode with a speaker from this conference, Lisa Graham, Provincial Coordinator – Missing Persons, MMIW Initiative, Justice and Solicitor General, Government of Alberta.


Our University of Calgary MA student of Cultural Anthropology, Megan Sampson (follow her on twitter) presenting a poster about her ethnographic research with Women Warriors at Obesity Week in Nashville, Tenn. on November 11-15th.


Calgary Women Warriors Updates


The City of Calgary will be offering Women Warriors at two different locations in January: Forest Lawn Activity Centre and Village Square Leisure Centre. In order to engage the community and attract participants, they are offering teaser sample sessions. Please review the poster above for details and register for the SAMPLE session with Joleen (403) 366-3994.

Women Warriors Calgary 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Programs are scheduled for the following dates and times:

Jan 8th – Feb 26th
Village Square Leisure Center
2623 56 St NE

Jan 10th – Feb 28th
Bob Bahan Aquatic Center
4812 14 Ave SE

You MUST register in order to participate. Please share with your friends and family.

Please direct all inquiries about the Women Warriors program to my email: As the co-founder of this program, I am happy to address any questions. Dr. Sonja Wicklum and I are the only contacts to discuss hosting this program in your community. Thank you.

Treated, Not Dying: Surviving Canada’s Healthcare System (Part 1 of 2)

By Rhonda Kronyk

You can also download this entire 2 part newsletter as a PDF by clicking here.

If you watch television, you’ve probably seen ads about the symptoms of a stroke and how to minimize the damage. The most important thing is to get help as quickly as possible. But, if you’re Indigenous in Canada, that help may not come in time.

We’ve all seen the headlines about the lower quality of care Indigenous people receive in Canada’s health system. We also know that women in general receive lower quality care than men – their concerns are often ignored and, until recently, health studies almost exclusively focused on men.
That means that in health care systems, as in so many systems in Canada, Indigenous women often face significant barriers to accessing the care they need and have a right to.

On an intellectual level, I knew the stories and statistics. Elders die in waiting rooms because medical staff assume they are intoxicated. Children are forced to fly from northern communities for medical care without their parents because of government policies. Women are forced to go to southern communities by themselves to deliver their babies alone. The systemic racism that Indigenous people encounter daily in Canada’s health care system has high prices: emotional and mental deterioration, negative physical health effects, even death.

But I had only learned of the stories through the news. I wasn’t personally affected by them. While I always felt empathy towards those affected and anger at the system, I didn’t know how to do more than express my disgust.

Then my work as an Indigenous editor brought home just how deep the problem is.

Fellow editors sometimes ask for my advice when they have questions about how articles or stories about Indigenous people are written. They might be concerned that the language is inappropriate or need to know about whether to use certain words.

I was recently sent excerpts from an article that was being submitted to a medical journal. My friend was concerned about the language and wasn’t sure whether it would be a problem. She recognized that there were underlying issues but wanted some feedback.

As far as grammar, there wasn’t really anything to worry about so I updated some of it to current usage. That was the easy part.

The problem came when I began to read the sections that my friend thought had deeper problems. And she was right. Without the doctor intending it, the article almost oozed subtle (and not so subtle) racism.

The article wasn’t about medical procedures. Rather, it was about treating Indigenous patients. Patients that he saw as uninformed and unwilling to listen to him even when their lives depended on it.

One of the biggest problems with many doctors who work with Indigenous people is their refusal to see alternatives to western medicine. And this doctor was no different. His attitude was that patients who wanted to work with him while using traditional medicine were backwards. He didn’t use that word, but his meaning was clear. He could or would not see any alternatives to his treatment. Even worse, I suspect he wasn’t even willing to discuss the topic with his patients.

This matters. The most recent numbers I could find were from several years ago. But between 2001 -2012, the health status of Indigenous adults across Canada deteriorated from 22% to 18%. I have two big issues with this statistic. First, a drop in health status by 4% in the 21stcentury is intolerable and devastating. But what I found even more shocking was that 22% is the baseline. How can any country accept this low number and not do everything in its power to change it?

Whether by design or accident, our health care system negatively impacts Indigenous Peoples. Health care on reserves and in northern Canada generally falls below what communities need. Non-Indigenous doctors and nurses sometimes don’t understand how to build the community relationships that will make it possible for them to effectively treat patients. Or they come for short-term contracts that don’t give them the opportunity to make those relationships.

Those who stay and become part of the community may have to deal with a shortage of supplies or the equipment they need to treat emergencies and more serious illnesses.

In urban areas, many doctors who treat Indigenous patients won’t even attempt to understand cultural differences. They don’t recognize that seeing a patient for 10 minutes every few months will not build the trust that is needed between an Indigenous patient and their doctor. Without that trust, some Indigenous patients will naturally go back to traditional medicines that have healed for thousands of years.

An even more inexcusable issue in urban settings is health care professionals who allow their prejudices to determine how they treat Indigenous patients. The result? Assumptions that Indigenous patients are drug addicts who only want painkillers to feed their addictions. Or deciding that patients who come to emergency departments are simply sleeping off a drunk and refusing to see if they have a deadly infection or are having a stroke. Or maybe believing that patients are looking for handouts and taking advantage of the medical system.

The result? Some of these patients die while sitting in emergency rooms waiting for somebody to care enough to look after them. Or they are sent home with serious medical conditions and later suffer serious, life-changing health problems. And yes, we know this happens to non-Indigenous people as well. But those cases are much rarer than those where Indigenous Peoples health care is ignored.

And the parts of the article I read for my friend were no exception to this issue of neglect brought on by stereotyping Indigenous patients. The doctor was subtly critical of his Indigenous patients who didn’t trust his advice on cancer treatment. Given his language, I can imagine that he might not take the time to fully explain his treatment plan. Rather, I can picture him telling his patients what they would do and then getting frustrated when they questioned him. Was this what happened? I don’t know. But I do know it is the reaction many minorities communities get whether it is in medicine, banking or education. Our systems are designed to favour western ideals to the detriment of all other perspectives.

I’m tired of hearing these stories. I’m tired of people dying because they are seeking medical help as an Indigenous person. I’m angry that those with the power to change our systems refuse to do so.

Sometimes I feel helpless in the face of that anger. But my experience with this particular article taught me something important.

Next week’s newsletter, Part 2 describes Rhonda’s calls to action regarding discrimination in the Canadian medical system.

You can also download this entire 2 part newsletter as a PDF by clicking here.

Rhonda Kronyk is a settler/Dene writing, editing and grant consultant. She lives on Treaty 6 lands in her adopted city of amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton). As a member of the Indigenous Editors Association, she is working to change the Canadian publishing industry to ensure books that are respectful of Indigenous Peoples and culture are published. You can find her on her website or Follow her on twitter @ThisAndThatYEG

In gratitude of Rhonda’s time spent on this article for Women Warriors, a small donation was made to the non-profit organization, Books With Wings – Supporting Literacy in remote First Nations communities.

News stories pertaining to racism within the Canadian health care system:

Dr. Wicklum with Dr. McGregor at the Health Research Caucus Event, Parliament Hill, Tuesday, October 30th. There were fifteen researchers from across Canada invited to discuss northern and rural health research, including our rural research with Women Warriors.


Our University of Calgary graduate student, Megan Sampson is excited to present her ethnographic study conducted last fall in Lloydminster with Women Warriors at Obesity Week in Nashville, November 11th-15th. Please follow her on twitter for updates @mbsampso.
Halloween Zumba with Onion Lake Cree Nation participants and fitness instructor, Rita!

Calgary Women Warriors Tentative Dates

Graduates of the City of Calgary Women Warriors Pilot Program April-May 2018.


Jan 8th – Feb 26th
Village Square Leisure Center
2623 56 St NE

Jan 10th – Feb 28th
Bob Bahan Aquatic Center
4812 14 Ave SE

Thursday November 29th
Bob Bahan
4812 14 Ave SE

Tuesday December 4th
Village Square Leisure Center
2623 56 St NE

The teasers are designed to introduce the program into the community and recruit participants for the Jan – Feb programs. Details about registration with contact information to follow.

The next Onion Lake Cree Nation program begins January. Please inquire with Alicia Oliver at the Onion Lake Health Centre for registration:


I have a new project that I’m working on for my Advocacy From the Margins course through the University of Athabasca. Haikus about Indigenous women as leaders as a form of activism. I’ll share the project in the newsletter when I’m finished

Onion Lake Cree Nation’s Urban Poling Group

Nordic Walking with Vera Cardinal

Vera Cardinal, my friend and former participant of Women Warriors is starting her own urban poling group on reserve. Planned start date is Monday, October 29th. Free to join – the urban poles are provided and include a free pedometer.

Last Tuesday, October 16th Dr. Sonja Wicklum and I went to Onion Lake early so that I could instruct Vera Cardinal on how to urban pole (also known as Nordic Walking). She was interested in joining the Women Warriors program, but due to time constraints could not commit to every Tuesday evening. She is a busy mom of five children, ages 14, 13, 11, 9 and 1 and a soon-to-be Mom of six in February! She is also a full-time employee at Native Justice.

She told me she wanted to get more active and commit to healthy eating for her sixth pregnancy because of weight gain and edema (fluid retention in her hands and feet) during her last pregnancy. In addition, she stated on a social media post, “I felt my self-esteem go down and I hated how I looked. I have a body type that easily puts on weight. It’s a journey for me and at times it’s hard but I’m glad I’m choosing to live a healthier lifestyle. As much as I put my children first I have to put my myself there too. Self-love is a journey and I’m willing to reach my goals no matter how long it takes.”

Vera decided to commit to a 30-day challenge: 30 minutes of daily activity and an increase in fruits and vegetables. I even talked her into trying hummus, but she didn’t appreciate the flavor I recommended; there is always a trial and error process with new foods.

She posted on facebook about her healthy eating journey, “Ever since I gave up chips, potatoes, pasta, ice cream, fast food, fried foods, chocolate, white bread, soda pop, juice, cakes, donuts, cookies, and candy my energy has been way up more than before. I feel good about more things – I don’t feel bloated after I eat. I even feel good in my thoughts.”

Within one week, and at 24 weeks pregnant she lost six pounds from healthy eating and 30 minutes of urban poling walks per day. I want to highlight that Vera’s medical doctor is fully aware of her healthy lifestyle challenge and on her last visit she posted that, “The Dr. is happy that I’m eating better and doing the challenge.”

Vera’s social media posts about her health journey and her daily urban poling sessions started to peak the interest of women in her community. When she messaged me to state, “I have some ladies interested in the walking club too” I was proud of her efforts and excited about her forming her own group.

Vera’s advertisement for her urban poling group states, “We are here to encourage one another to promote healthy lifestyles. To help prevent diabetes and also other sickness and diseases that are common within our First Nations communities. We can all work together to help take care of each other. Please message me if you are interested. I have a set of 10 poles and I can teach you all how to use them.”

My additional comments to her post include, “Urban poling is a great way to improve posture, strengthen your core, burn 20-40% more calories and gain arm tone. A great exercise for all levels from beginner to advanced. The poles are provided. Includes free pedometers, and an incentive of a Women Warriors t-shirt for the first person to reach 10, 000 steps. Socialize and get in shape!”

To join Vera’s urban poling group please instant message her on facebook: Vera Lynn Cardinal. I will be joining the first class to make certain everyone has the right technique and answer any questions about urban poling. If you are interested in purchasing your own urban poles please contact me:

Our instructor of Bootcamp last week, Rita (right) posted on social media: I coached the #WomenWarriors tonight… love the strength and power they bring…I have to give props to this little Woman Warrior!! She totally killed the workout….pushed all the way through… her T push-ups were on fire!


Women Warriors Calgary April/May graduating class.
This past Wednesday, October 24th we had a meeting with City of Calgary Village Square Leisure Centre social worker, Jody Forbes, and Aboriginal Community social worker, Bev Renaud. We are excited to announce that the Women Warriors program will be expanding to a second location this coming January. The two locations will be Village Square and the new site of Forest Lawn Hub. Details to follow.


Women Warriors Calgary (April-May 2018) – Sharing Circle with participants.


My friend, Jannica (right), a woman with many titles including a documentary filmmaker, and I are planning a project together about the importance of digital health services in Saskatchewan as the closure of Greyhound bus routes in rural areas leave marginalized and vulnerable Indigenous people unable to access healthcare services. She is attending the 2018 Infoway Partnership Conference taking place November 13-14, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec. The conference takes place during Digital Health Week (November 12-18, 2018) which celebrates the difference digital health is making in the lives of Canadians.


On my last visit to Calgary for the ARP meeting in Siksika on October 11th and 12th, I had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Micheal Lickers and Dr. Jennifer Leason. I want to thank them for inspiring me with their story of mentorship and always encouraging me to pursue my passion for Indigenous women’s health to it’s fullest expression. In this photo Michael is showing Jennifer his bound PhD dissertation.


Next week’s newsletter is special guest writer and editor, Rhonda Kronyk. I met her at the Edmonton Writing Stick conference June 2017 and we have kept in contact through Twitter. I asked her to write a piece pertaining to Indigenous women’s health and she replied:

I personally haven’t had any issues. But if you’re interested in a side story that is related…

I’m an editor who specializes in working with Indigenous stories. A colleague recently asked me to review parts of a manuscript she was editing by a Calgary doctor that was going to be published in a Canadian journal. I was shocked when I read the excerpts she sent me. The writing used stereotypes of Indigenous people who wouldn’t seek out health care or listen to medical advice. He embodied systemic racism in medical care in almost every sentence my friend sent me. I could tie that in with news stories about Indigenous people being ignored in health care. Add to that the fact that women’s issues are often not taken seriously and Indigenous women face a double whammy.

I’m currently trying to revive the Indigenous Editor’s Circle for exactly this reason – until Indigenous people are involved in more aspects of publishing, this kind of writing will continue to fill popular books and academic books and journals.  

Amanda Lameman

My name is Amanda Lameman and I am 41 years old from Onion Lake Cree Nation.

I self-identify as a proud Cree woman from the Treaty Six Territory.

I am an Undergraduate student at University nuhelot’ine thaiyots’i nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills.
I have been blessed with seven children and five grandchildren.

I joined Women Warriors because I wanted to have a support system to help me get on track toward a healthier life. Everyone knows that it’s hard to achieve goals when you don’t have a positive support and for that reason I am thankful that I heard of Women Warriors. Some of the physical activities I enjoyed at Women Warriors are yoga and meditation because I believe these are great ways to reducing stress.

Being a full-time student, mother and wife makes it hard for me to exercise daily but I go to the school exercise room when I have the time. Smudging, meditating and journaling are my ways of showing self-love.

My favorite meal is moose meat, potatoes, vegetables and gravy. My philosophy to healthy living is to balance all aspects of the medicine wheel, keeping positive thoughts, getting enough sleep and drinking lots of water. Through my own struggles I realized that everyone is different, and we must learn to trust our own bodies and therefore not everything will work for you.

The first step toward healthy living and an active life is to love yourself first and loving your surroundings will get easier after that.

Be the Mom Who Heals Future Generations by Healing Herself

By Brandy-Lee Maxie

Brandy-Lee Maxie is a Nakoda Assiniboine Journalist working with The Discourse, uncovering stories about the impacts of the Oil & Gas industry on Indigenous communities. She is a storyteller, entrepreneur and mother of three from the White Bear First Nations in Saskatchewan. Photo credit Angela Fama for The Discourse.

I often overshare my life on social media, but I do it for various reasons. It’s a great tool to have a voice and be visible in a world where indigenous women don’t really have a voice and continue to be practically invisible to society.

Growing up, I noticed a lack of representation or even misrepresentation for indigenous people in the media. Many indigenous communities were limited to the books and resources that were available to them on reserve and what they are being exposed to in the media. Issues like indigenous health and wellness, culturally significant stories and indigenous history were seldom shared in mainstream media. We were limited to resources for various crises’ that indigenous communities continue to face as they are tucked out of societal view. Issues like diabetes, addictions, suicide, and poverty are so prevalent in indigenous communities, they are all intertwined and they can be traced back directly to residential schools, genocide and colonization.

I’m sure Canada is not yet comfortable discussing their inhumane treatment of the original peoples of this continent, so now we pour out all our stories on social media for the world to see. Many of us pour out our souls for other Mothers facing the impacts colonization just like we are, in hopes to connect and walk side by side through this journey.

I am a Mother of three lovely children, two of who are living with chronic illness. My heart hurts everyday, I cry alot and I’m always in a doctor’s office or in an emergency room. I also share custody and so when I’m not the only one taking care of them, I’m torturing myself obsessing on the Internet about their illnesses; researching to find a cure. I also obsessively worry, especially during cold and flu season and I pray alot.

Through the years I also discovered myself in this process, because I had to figure out how to keep myself together in order to do everything I needed to do on a daily basis to provide and care for my children, and myself. I learned about self-care, fitness, ceremony and what works best for me to stop an anxiety attack. Let’s face it, having sick kids is the one thing you wish you could control the most but you can’t and you have to accept it everyday. We all want to make our children better, take their every pain and sickness from them. But when you can’t, that adds a degree of mental illness to your already full plate (anxiety, insomnia, and stages to acceptance). All of that pain and anxiety you feel as a Mother to a child living with chronic illness, that’s unconditional love.

I believe our children choose us before we are blessed with them and mine chose me because I am strong enough to walk this journey with them, and because my love for them is stronger than anything in this world. They teach me everyday to understand that no matter how hard my day is, someone else’ day is harder.

My first-born son got sick almost immediately; he had the chicken pox at just two months old. We didn’t even have time to get his immunization shots, little did we know at the time that this would be the first of many trips to the ER. He had eczema, and then he was diagnosed with asthma. Following that, he started having life-threatening allergies and he kept getting lung sick with bronchitis and a few rounds of pneumonia. At the age of four, he had a bout of pneumonia accompanied with near renal failure. He once got mono and they thought he had leukemia – I never in my life would have imagined that I would be so relieved that he had mono. He got shingles at the age of nine and nearly lost his eye. Then they tell me he has an immune deficiency disease which is why he catches almost everything he comes into contact with. Thank Creator he is growing out of most of his illnesses like his allergies and asthma.

We endured many years of racism in the health care system and we could have had an earlier diagnosis for certain things if we were taken seriously about how sick he was. Trust me on this one, get yourself an advocate on speed dial as well as a network of supports that you can call – family, friends, colleagues, medical team, etc.

My second born son was picture perfect healthy and was always a very loveable and active child. Then one day when he was five years old I took him to the Doctor because he was rapidly losing weight, drinking alot of water and peeing every hour. He got really sick because they believed he could wait the weekend out to see a Doctor, so after throwing up, losing his eyesight temporarily, and going into a diabetic coma he was taken to RUH in Saskatoon. They said, “His sugar was 35!” I felt the whole room go under water, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t breathe, and that feeling didn’t lift for over a week.

Just like that my baby had Type 1 diabetes and before I could even breathe again, a social worker was standing in the room and they wanted to know if I had food and beds at home. I went full-blown mama bear mode. I became an expert on making sure I never lose my children to the system; I became a hell of a Mom to deal with when predatory systems start encroaching on my sick children, questioning my ability to carry out my maternal duties. I started stacking up the supports again, gathering resources, becoming the expert in his disease and an expert in my new role as not only his Mother but functioning as his pancreas too.

With the help of his Mama and Poppa, he is living quite healthy, happy and well adjusted to living with diabetes. He was also diagnosed with a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which hasn’t bothered him too much yet, but is expected to be a problem when he is a teenager. We are also preparing for that part of this journey.

I have many theories as to why my children are sick, like the fact that I grew up bathing in mercury-poisoned water. But no answers, so I just keep researching potential causes, potential cures, and diets. Anyone who is navigating the health care system with a child living with chronic illness, I recommend you find your indigenous healthcare advocates, line up your support, become an expert on your child’s illness, and take some time to care for yourself.

As indigenous women, we don’t just carry our families, we carry our nations. My family is not abnormal in a country that normalized poisoned waters for indigenous communities and medical experimentation on indigenous women and children. Asking why your loved ones are sick can really take you down a wormhole of historical facts that they do not teach in Canadian schools. TRUTH has to happen before reconciliation – it is our time to tell our truth and it is Canada’s duty to RECONCILE. Don’t be afraid to go down that wormhole and enter into that healing journey with your family.

Remember that self-care is more than bath bombs and spas; it also means taking care of your mental health. It is far too easy for the system to chew up and spit out a single mother who is struggling with her own demons. But also know the power that is indigenous mothers’ and remember what that means for our nations. Be her. Be the Mom that scares an oppressive system – the one who heals future generations by healing herself.

Brandy-Lee Maxie is one of the reporters participating in The Discourse’s Local News Fellowship. The fellowship aims to support sustained coverage of issues related to energy and the environment in communities underserved by the media. You can view her articles on her Facebook page, BrandyLeeMaxiejournalist. She is also an entrepreneur and creator of a Professional Fitness training (Warrior style Bootcamps & POWFit™ powwow inspired Dance Fitness). Please view her Facebook page AB ORIGINAL Health & Fitness. 

Brandy-Lee with her sons


October 12, 2018. Dr. Wicklum and I had the opportunity to present the Women Warriors program to medical professionals, mostly family doctors that work on reserve at the fall Alternate Reimbursement Plan (non fee for service) at Blackfoot Crossing, Treaty 7, Siksika Nation. We were grateful to connect with medical professionals that are passionate about Indigenous health and improving health outcomes.


After our ARP meeting, we were invited to the River Ranch for cultural teachings from a member of Siksika and a delicious dinner of moose meat soup and bannock. Thanks to Dr. Daniel Edgcumbe for connecting us with the lead organizer of the ARP, Dr. Ellen Toth, MD, FRCPC, Medical Leader, Indigenous health program, Alberta Health Services – North.


October 16, 2018. Dr. Wicklum and I participated in Bootcamp fitness class with instructor and owner of Determined Bootcamp in Lloydminster, Rita Ermine. Dr. Wicklum also delivered a 15-minute nutrition education class to participants.


Rita (right) instructed her first Boot Camp class on her mom, Theresa Dillon’s (center) home reserve of Onion Lake Cree Nation. Her Mom, a Grade 9 teacher at Frog Lake came to watch us and was beaming with pride. Our WW facilitator, Jaeden was a former student of Theresa’s.


October 17, 2018. Dr. Wicklum, Alicia Oliver, RDE for Onion Lake Cree Nation and I presented the Women Warriors program to health professionals at the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC). It consists of nine member First Nations – you can view them here. Thanks to the following health professionals for meeting with us: MLTC dieticians, Cassie and Tammy, community health rep, Mary, Registered Nurse, Armand, and health director, Savannah. We’re excited about our potential partnership with MLTC.

Parliamentary Health Research Caucus Event to
Highlight Northern and Rural Health Research in Canada

Dr. Wicklum has been invited to speak with Parliamentarians in Ottawa about Women Warriors and our research over the past three years in Lloydminster and currently in Onion Lake Cree Nation.

The press release for the event states:
Research Canada and the Parliamentary Health Research Caucus are hosting an invitation-only reception to introduce Parliamentarians to fifteen of Canada’s leading northern and rural health researchers from across the country, the majority of whom are women, who will discuss the challenges of providing health care to Canada’s remote and isolate regions. We are thrilled to be able to profile the ground-breaking research being conducted all across Canada and by several Indigenous researchers in their own remote communities. 
Rural Canada is about 20% of the employed Canadian workforce, one-third of the Canadian population and over 90% of the nation’s territory. Many rural communities in Canada are facing demographic, ecological, economic and social challenges due to geographic and social isolation, depletion of natural resources, boom-and-bust cycles in primary industries, chronic high unemployment, out-migration of the young, population aging, environmental decay, inadequate or deteriorating municipal infrastructure, etc. These problems have profound implications for the health and well-being of northern, Indigenous and rural Canada. This Parliamentary Health Research Caucus Reception on Northern and Rural Health Research in Canada can contribute to existing knowledge on rural, northern and Indigenous health and help to enhance sustained support for this area of research in Canada.

Date:               October 30, 2018, 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Where:            Speaker’s Lounge, Centre Block, Parliament Hill

Who:                Fifteen leading experts from across Canada will discuss their research under three areas of prevention research.

You can view the 15 invited researchers on the Research Canada website.
Dr. Wicklum’s presentation will include a slideshow featuring photos and videos of our WW community from 2016-2018. I encourage everyone to view the Youtube video.

Metis Cultural Days

Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. (CUMFI) hosted a Metis cultural gathering, celebration & fundraiser on Sept. 28th-30th in Saskatoon, SK.

Metis Days Gala (l to r): Myself, journalist Betty Ann Adam, & Dr. Jacqueline Maurice. We all had much in common- scooped/adopted out because of our heritage.


I was invited to attend the Metis Days Gala Fundraiser held at the White Cap Dakota Casino on September 29th. It featured an Indigenous art auction and silent auction to support CUMFI’s programs for families residing in Supported Living Homes.

At this event, it was a pleasure to meet 60’s Scoop Survivors, Betty Ann Adam and Dr. Jacqueline Maurice. This past summer I read Dr. Maurice’s book, The Lost Children: A Nation’s Shame based on her own experience as 60’s scooped child placed in the child welfare system at one-month-old. She uses her childhood trauma of being placed in many foster homes from birth to fifteen years old to explain the de-spiriting of Aboriginal children, defined as the “process whereby Aboriginal children and families have experienced institutional, structural, cultural, psychological, emotional and spiritual oppression and trauma resulting in Aboriginal children, families, and communities moving away from their balance and spirit of well-being (Maurice, 2014, p.v).

Her experiences of being “in-care” were used for her Ph.D. dissertation and she includes a research methodology chapter that I found fascinating. She uses an “autobiographical and auto-ethnographical approach to examine in a systematic manner the institutional construction and textual production” (p. 75) of her own government and medical documents, and personal childhood journals that chronicled her traumatic childhood. Her qualitative methodology allowed for decolonizing and alternative methodologies – throughout the book she uses Indigenous stories, values and culture. For example, she uses many Indigenous ways of knowing and concepts such as, “All my relations” and charts on the beliefs and values of Aboriginal family life to explain the devastation of the 60’s scoop (pp.27-30).

One chapter is dedicated to her “first-hand account as [a] long-term foster child during the duration of the Adopt Indian-Metis program (AIM)” (p.175). It is heartbreaking reading her personal narratives as a child struggling to understand the sexual abuse she endured from her foster father and brother-in-law, and the subsequent behavioral problems, self-harm, and suicide attempts as a teenager.

It is also filled with hope, forgiveness, and accounts of healing by other 60’s scoop survivors. One personal interview that touched me, as an Indigenous adult adoptee, was 60’s scoop survivor Terry’s search for her origins and identity. After speaking with her biological Uncle on the phone she “remember[s] going home that day and looking in the mirror because it was confirmed, because I had asked him, are we Metis, are we Cree, are we Saulteaux, I didn’t know. And he said, ‘we call ourselves Cree Saulteaux,’ and I went home that day, and I looked in the mirror, and I said to myself, ‘oh yeah I really do look Indian.’ So it was just this validation, which was tremendous'” (p.213).

An indigenous award-winning journalist for the Star Phoenix, Betty Ann and I spoke about that validation after searching for and finding our biological families, both of whom reside in Yellowknife. We talked about our common experience as Indigenous adoptees both placed with non-Indigenous families – physically never having someone that looked like us growing up, wondering about our cultural origins, and if our biological family member would have similar personality traits. You can view Betty Ann’s experience reuniting with her biological family in the documentary, Birth of a Family. You can watch the first time she meets her biological siblings – two sisters and one brother! The synopsis states they were “removed from their young Dene mother during the infamous Sixties Scoop, separated as infants and adopted into families across North America.”

Betty Ann also discussed her experience as a 60’s scoop survivor in the Star Phoneix column, Scooped: How I lost my mother, found my family, recovered my identity. For this article, she won the Canadian Association of Journalist 2017 award for best text feature.

I also wrote about my personal adoption/reunion journey for the YellowkniferWomen Warriors newspaper column, Finding one’s ancestral homeland and culture. (Email me if you’d like the pdf electronic version).

After I took this picture of the three of us, Dr. Maurice stated it made her emotional. When I look at this picture I see three Indigenous women that were displaced from our communities, asking the question, “Whose little girl am I?” (p.174). We found our way back to our families and our land. We’ve been blessed with a spiritual healing based on discovering our identity and connecting to our origins. I felt incredibly grateful to be sitting at this table with Indigenous women that could identify with my story and had used their stories to create awareness and understanding of the 60’s scoop.

Dr. Maurice is available for Sixties Scoop Community engagement activities, curriculum development and/or presentations/storytelling. Email:

Betty Ann Adam is engaged with Sixties Scoop Sharing Circles beginning in Saskatchewan October – November.

Thanks to Lindsay Isbister, organizer of the models for the art auction for featuring the Women Warriors brand! The models are holding my favorite original piece of art – contemporary Louis Riel!
Orange Shirt Day Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, Sept 30th was a well-attended reconciliation event! Here I am with my friend, Jannica and her daughter, Mya (far left), Cpl. Karen Pelletier (centre), acting Aboriginal Advisory NCO/community engagement coordinator, F Division, Prince Albert, and my three daughters, Aubrey, Kayla, and Harper.


October 2nd, WW’s Onion Lake Cree Nation class featured beginner yoga and meditation with sound bowls.



Meditation instructor, Tara Harty states, “I am a Pranic Energy Healer. I balance my energy and clear the room before I start. Then I go through and balance each individual to help them better relax and absorb the vibrations. The vibrations from the bowls and the sounds vibrate right through your body and remove blocks and tension.”


Women Warriors Review of Yoga and Meditation Class
“Omg! I loved it!! I had the best sleep ever and would most definitely do it again.” Clarissa
“Yoga and meditation was a perfect way to ending my evening. I haven’t had a good sleep in such a long time. The best part was coming home with no shoulder pain. Thanks for the stress-free evening!” Amanda
“Yoga was a challenge it was first for me it was different and would do it again now meditation was totally AMAZING I loved it and would do it again thank you appreciate it .” Grace
“We need this in North Battleford (NB).” Niska (former WW’s participant now living in NB).
Upcoming Newsletter Feature 

I’m excited to share several exciting upcoming features for our newsletter. I am currently in university and do not have the time to dedicate to a weekly newsletter; however, I have asked a guest writer, Brandy-Lee Maxie, an Indigenous journalist to write an article on her personal experience accessing health care services for her son, who has type I diabetes. As well, our U of C grad student, Megan Sampson will share insights on her Master’s thesis on food security in Lloydminster with our WW group from last November. Finally, I’ll start sharing Women Warriors Wednesday profiles from the Onion Lake Cree Nation group.

If you have any questions about the program or would like to contact me for follow up information please email:

Dietary Practices of Indigenous Women

MA thesis learnings from our University of Calgary grad student, Megan Sampson

July 2017 – Visiting Wwom Warrior participant, Ashley and her huge garden at Onion Lake Cree Nation. (L to R): Ashley, U of C summer student Elsy, and Megan.

It has been one year since I travelled to Lloydminster to conduct ethnographic research with the Women Warriors program. I will soon defend my MA thesis based on the results of that work, which explored the dietary practices of  Indigenous women in the program. While in previous newsletters I’ve been able to describe the methods, goals, and preliminary trends from this study, today I am able to offer a more complete picture of the ample learnings participants offered.

This research is grounded in Indigenous feminist literature1to explore the interplay of social and structural factors impacting Indigenous women’s wellness. Two main tenets of Indigenous feminist theory apply most directly: 1) Indigenous women’s experiences of marginalization and gendered inequality are distinct and rooted in colonization. Colonization remains intact in living legislation, having persistent impacts on Indigenous women’s health, wellbeing, and material realities; 2) Indigenous women have the leadership, knowledge, and skills to produce lasting change and resist oppression. Both of these truths are evident in the food practices and experiences of the women in this study.

Socio-political factors related to colonization have produced food insecurity among Indigenous peoples in the territory where Lloydminster now resides2. Trauma and the impacts of residential schools have also impacted dietary practices. Some participants in the study were residential school survivors, and they described how it felt to be separated from their culture, including traditional diet:

The food they gave us was pathetic. They gave us rotten food back then. And we came from a system of wild meat– you know, the good food. And then we get thrown into a system where it’s not so good [. . .] So, times have changed, but the memories still linger. It’ll take time. Some people eat because of comfort, because it’s a comfort food. . . It’s not because they want to eat to be a diabetic. It’s what they’re trying to feed because of what they didn’t have. . . 

Others described intergenerational effects:

L: Well, for me, I used to be overweight. And I’ve been battling with weight my whole life. And, growing up I’ve often wondered why my parents never said anything to me. I was getting chunkier and chunkier [. . .] And maybe it’s because of how my dad grew up—he grew up in residential school—that he just wanted to let me have everything, because he didn’t have it. . . He couldn’t be with his parents. So, I think he was just trying to spoil me and my sister—does that make sense? 

Another challenge described by participants was the high cost of healthy foods. It is important to consider that the socio-economic realities of Indigenous women have been shaped by colonial and gendered violence, for example in sexist legislation engrained in the Indian Act3. Some participants reported fear of running out of food before they had money to buy more or feeling unable to afford to eat healthy. Even for participants who reported feeling financially secure, economic considerations often played a major role in what foods they consumed. Out of 8 participants who took part in a social network mapping activity, it was revealed that collectively they shared meals (at least once a week) with a total of 57 other individuals (an average of about 7 each). This often required considerable financial planning. For those from Onion Lake Cree Nation or rural surrounding areas, the cost of travel to and from the city for groceries, and the high cost of produce at convenience stores, posed added economic burden.

Personal food preferences (or the food preferences of children, grandchildren, or partners) were sometimes described as interfering with nutrition and chronic disease management. Behavioural-level, “lifestyle”-based health analyses have been criticized for “victim blaming”, as individuals whose choices are constrained by larger socio-political and environmental factors are blamed for their own adverse health. In the context of this research, it was evident in participants’ narratives that food choices and preferences revealed much about broader structural realities:

B: When I was younger we didn’t always have food to last us until the next time we were getting money. So basically we just had to eat what was provided to us. . . So it would have been a lot of starchy foods like potatoes and soups. . . I ate a lot of macaroni [. . .] That’s the only way I learned how to cook for my own family. [My daughter’s] in university, and she’s overweight. She’s carrying on the same habits that I kind of taught her.

* * *
Residential school. . . that kind of led me down a different path. When I was on reserve, I didn’t gain weight. But the minute that I was in the residential school the weight came. I started getting fluffy. [They fed me] breads, lots of breads and fatty foods. So when I came home after residential school, that’s the way I preferred to eat. For some 40 years I struggled with weight because I couldn’t maintain the way I was eating.

Despite these barriers, food practices were also sites of cultural resilience, leadership and creativity. Despite concerted assimilationist efforts by settler society, a large majority of the women involved in this study reported consuming traditional foods (mostly meat from wild game). Several described active efforts to seek out, prepare, and share traditional foods, for reasons including their economic feasibility, health benefits, and cultural value. One participant was a foster parent who taught other foster parents in her community how to prepare traditional meals to promote cultural competency. Others described various ways that actively connecting or reconnecting to their culture through food benefitted themselves and their families:

So I’m just now, since from last year getting back into eating raw vegetables and, um, dry meat and, you know traditional food like duck [. . .] I’m really liking the way I eat right now. It’s really pulled me back from the brink of something. I thought I was going to have a heart attack, you know, if I didn’t stop eating the way I was eating. Yeah, so I’m trying. I’m teaching my grandkids and my kids, you know, like “you have to eat differently”.

In a couple of cases, participants went to impressive lengths to self-provision. One participant was able to combat household food insecurity, which she had struggled with for years, through converting her yard into a vast home garden and building a smokehouse to prepare wild meat. Having minimal experience with gardening or traditional food practices in her past, these feats were a source of immense pride. It was evident that passing these knowledges on to her children helped to empower them and her alike:

My biggest pet peeve is ‘oh cooking is for girls’. People and their strong gender beliefs that ‘oh because you’re a male you don’t need to know how to do this’. But what if you find out that you don’t like girls? What if you find out that you like boys, then what? What if he was raised the same way as you and doesn’t know how to do these things? Who’s going to cook, who’s going to clean? So, I like to teach my boys. My boys help me garden and help me weed. Like, come on, my son grew a watermelon! 

I do not mean to suggest such self-provisioning is feasible for all Indigenous families struggling with food insecurity. Rather, what these activities demonstrate is the extensive actions Indigenous women are already taking to nourish their families. Every woman involved in this study, through various means, actively sought better health for themselves and their families on a daily basis (hence why most enrolled in Women Warriors). The question for those designing health programming or initiatives to promote Indigenous women’s health should be how to support them in such endeavours and provide the tools to overcome structural barriers. Prescriptive top-down approaches that fail to account for such barriers are discernibly limited.

I would like to thank Shelley for featuring me in her newsletter, and for being a friend and mentor at every stage of this project. Thanks also to Sonja Wicklum, Rita Henderson, and both Dolores Pahtayken and Elder Verna Buffalo Calf, who served advisory roles. Above all, thank you so much to the women who generously participated in this study.

For any additional information, please contact me at
Megan’s previous contributions to our newsletter include Food Security & Needs in Lloydminster and a two-part series on Lloydminster Plains History.


  1. A few of many works to consider if interested in learning more about Indigenous feminism:
    Anderson, KimA Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood. Toronto: Women’s Press, 2016.
    Green, Joyce. “Taking Account of Aboriginal Feminism.” In Making Space for Indigenous Feminism, 20–32. London: Zed, 2007.
    Suzack, Cheryl. “Indigenous Feminisms in Canada.” NORA: Nordic Journal For Women’s Studies23, no. 4 (December 2015): 261–74.
    Suzack, Cheryl, Shari M. Huhndorf, Jeanne Perreault, and Jean Barman, eds. Indigenous Women  and Feminism: Politics, Activism, Culture. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010.
    Guerrero, Jaimes. “‘Patriarchal Colonialism’ and Indigenism: Implications for Native Feminist Spirituality and Native Womanism.” Hypatia18, no. 2, 2003.
    Fiske, Jo-Anne. “Child of the State, Mother of the Nation: Aboriginal Women and the Ideology of Motherhood.” Culture12, no. 1 (1993): 17–35.
    Fiske, Jo-Anne.“By, For, or About? Shifting Directions in the Representations of Aboriginal Women.” Atlantis25, no. 1 (2000): 11–27.
  2. Bourassa, Carrie, Kim McKay-McNabb, and Mary Hampton. “Racism, Sexism, and Colonialism: The Impact on the Health of Aboriginal Women in Canada.” Canadian Woman Studies24, no. 1 (2004): 23–30.
    Kubik, Wendee, Carrie Bourassa, and Mary Hampton. “Stolen Sisters, Second Class Citizens, Poor Health: The Legacy of Colonization in Canada.” Humanity & Society33, no. 1–2 (February 1, 2009): 18–34.
  1. Jamieson, Kathleen. “Sex Discrimination and the Indian Act.” In Arduous Journey: Canadian Indians and Decolonization, edited by J. Ponting. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1986
September 25th – Our first Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) class. (L to R): Myself, Jaeden and Alicia Oliver, RD, CDE and WW program coordinator for OLCN.


Sept. 25th – Jaeden and Alicia conducting a round circle discussion.


Jaeden’s Facilitator Profile

Jaeden is a member of Onion Lake Cree Nation. She has one son, 16 month old Jaelin. She is also employed as a Child & Youth Care Worker.

Why you applied to be a Woman Warrior Facilitator: I applied for the position because it really stood out to me. I love the idea of bringing woman together in my community. Especially that it’s about living a healthier lifestyle, we can all depend on each other to help one another. However, I’d like to become more skilled in being a leader to others. I feel as if the knowledge will also help me in living a better and healthier lifestyle. I’ve always wanted to be someone who helps others, in any way possible! One of my other main reasons I applied is because it would be a wonderful experience for myself. And perhaps help me figure out what I’d like to pursue in my carrier.

Types of physical activity you enjoy (ie) Member of a sports team: I enjoy any kind of physical activity. I am open to trying new things all the time. I’m currently playing in a woman’s volleyball league. Volleyball is my favourite sport, although I love every other sport.