Reflections on Legacy Event in Yellowknife, NT(+Media Links)

August 15, 2019. The premier of Legacy: Indigenous Women’s Health Stories took place at Northern United Place in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Presenters (Front row l to r): Maxine Desjarlais, Elder & co-emcee, Gail Cyr, Dorothy Weyallon, Sheryl Liske & Tanya Roach. (Back row l to r): Beatrice Harper & Shelley Wiart. Photo credit for all photos: James O’Connor Unlimited.

Thank you to all the community members of Yellowknife that attended our event, Legacy: Indigenous Women’s Health Stories last week. I’m going to share some details of our event including the agenda and background information about this research project for our Women Warriors audience. I am currently writing my research paper about the process of digital storytelling, the stories themselves and the knowledge we gathered from our screening at Stanton Territorial Hospital and the I Wish tree at our event. I do have future plans to upload the stories to our website, www.womenwarriors.club but first I must finish my research paper and host some community screenings in Alberta. Below the event pictures, please access the media interviews we gave in Yellowknife before our event. Please send inquiries about hosting a community screening to our email: digitalstoriesyellowknife@gmail.com.

Agenda
6:00 -6:30 Community meal of bannock & chili. Prayer Elizabeth (Sabet) Biscaye.
6:30 – 6:45 Welcoming remarks: Emcee and Principal Investigator, Shelley Wiart & Elder, Gail Cyr, Dr. Irlbacher – Fox, Scientific Director of Hotıì ts’eeda & Lesa Semmler, Governing Council of Hotıì ts’eeda.
6:45 – 7:15 Screening of five digital health stories: Fragmented by Maxine Desjarlais, Broken Trust by Beatrice Harper, Secrets Revealed by Sheryl Liske, Living Our History by Dorothy Weyallon & Tuq&urausiit by Tanya Roach.
7:15 – 7:45 Moderated Speakers panel: Reflections on digital stories & prescreened questions.
7:45 – 7:55 Throat Singing: Tanya Roach & Nanasee Leblanc.
7:55 – 8:00  Closing remarks: The “I Wish” Tree & contact information for research.

Over the next three newsletters I am sharing parts of my speech from this event for background information about this Indigenous research and context for the digital stories. Recently, I read this article by Indigenous academics, Dr. Lawford and Dr. Coburn about Research, Ethnic Fraud, And The Academy: A Protocol For Working With Indigenous Communities And Peoples. I accept their protocols as an Indigenous student and researcher to declare my familiar connections to community as stated in the article, “Individuals who self-identify as Indigenous, especially in a research and academic context, have a responsibility to clearly articulate and declare their connections to established, legitimate Indigenous communities, thus confirming their connection to family and community.” The reason Dr. Lawford and Dr. Coburn are suggesting these protocols is because of ethic fraud occurring in academia, “We are seeing the rise of race-shifting and self-Indigenizing settlers. These are self-identifying “Indigenous” individuals without connection to our Nations and communities and who continue to silence our voices.” This Indigenous health research project aims to center Indigenous women’s voices in every stage of this research process. I will share, over the next three newsletters, how my five co-creators and myself collectively created these stories and how I implemented an integrated knowledge translation plan from the onset of this research.

Community & Relationships 
My name is Shelley Wiart. I am a proud Métis woman, and a board member of the North Slave Metis Alliance. I use she/her pronouns. I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered this evening on the shared traditional lands of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s People and the North Slave Metis. In terms of Yellowknife connections, my dad is the president of the North Slave Metis Alliance, Bill Enge, and my grandmother was a well-respected community Elder and social worker, Anne Enge.  I am the mother of three beautiful daughters; Kayla aged 10, Aubrey, 8 and Harper, 6.

My interest in Indigenous women’s health began the summer of 2015 when I co-founded Women Warriors, an Indigenous focused holistic health program alongside, Dr. Sonja Wicklum, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary. We created an 8 Weeks to Healthy Living program that includes physical fitness classes, nutrition education, and a sharing circle aimed at improving Indigenous women’s health outcomes. It became my mission to help Indigenous women reclaim their health and self-esteem through an active lifestyle. I facilitated the program 2015-2018, and co-authored the Women Warriors manual to train facilitators. I have since trained two Women Warriors facilitators in Calgary and one facilitator for the Onion Lake Cree Nation program. I have been actively involved in the research aspect of the Women Warriors program and co-presented Women Warriors at several academic conferences and local community gatherings.

The participants of our Women Warriors program influenced this research project. They shared their personal stories of negative experiences with healthcare providers in our round circle discussions and one-on-one with me. Also, they expressed the desire to share positive stories – an asset based lens – of their community and culture because of the negative media and stereotypes of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Moreover, in my 4 years working with Indigenous women I have witnessed the complexity of their health stories due to their intersecting identities of race and gender, their experience of colonialism, and socio-economic marginalization. Health care providers often fail to create an environment of cultural safety and understand the holistic health needs necessary to support this population.

This experience of advocating on behalf of Indigenous women set me on my path to higher education and I am now in my fourth year Bachelor of Arts, Sociology and Women & Gender Studies student at Athabasca University. I am receiving credit for my degree by conducting this research project about Indigenous women’s health through the culturally appropriate method of digital storytelling, in two locations – Onion Lake Cree Nation, on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan & Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The official title of my research project is, Digital Storytelling as an Indigenous Women’s Health Advocacy Tool: Empowering Indigenous Women to Frame Their Health Stories. The purpose of this project is to allow Indigenous women to share their traditional knowledge, and Indigenous healing practices in their daily lives and conceptualize their own health care stories and service needs to a medical audience. It also serves to educate non-Indigenous peoples on what traditional healing practices are for different Indigenous groups – First Nations, Metis and Inuit – and how to bridge the gap, if it can be done, between biomedical western medicine and traditional healing practices. These digital stories allow for self-reflection on individual and collective views on Indigenous women’s health, advance the understanding of Indigenous wellness, and promote reconciliation in healthcare. I am conducting this project under the supervision of Dr. Janelle Baker, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Athabasca University.

Our evening began at 6 pm with a free community meal of chili and bannock. Thanks to Nora MacKenzie for supplying the delicious food.

 

The scientific director of Hotıì ts’eeda, Dr. Irlbacher-Fox gave a brief overview of this organization at the beginning of our event. For this project I am grateful to be a recipient of the Hotıì ts’eeda Researcher Capacity Development Grant which is intended to provide university and college researchers working in the NWT with funding support to employ Indigenous people and local residents in conducting research in the NWT, with a view to building research capacity among Indigenous and NWT residents.

 

There were approximately fifty-five people in attendance from a variety of backgrounds including the Government of the Northwest Territories, healthcare professionals, education leaders and students and Indigenous activists, artists, and Elders.

 

The digital storytelling panel included prescreened questions about the legacy of residential school, the process of digital storytelling and what constitutes “good health” from the perspectives of each participants’ culture including Metis, Cree, Dene, Tlicho and Inuit (l to r): Shelley as moderator, Maxine, Beatrice, Sheryl, Dorothy & Tanya.

 

Tanya and her singing partner, Nanasee shared their Inuit culture and traditional throat singing. Tanya is a celebrated Inuit throat singer and has performed at the Winnipeg art gallery and many events around the North. Her digital story features her own throat singing soundtrack.

 

The “I WISH” Tree. The concept of this tree was to bridge the gaps between community members and health care service providers in the realm of reconciliation in health, cultural safety in the health care system, and closing the gaps in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Attendees completed the sentence “I wish health care service providers….”. and hung their leaves on the trees. I will include the responses on the leaves in my research paper.

 

Thank you to my Alberta Indigenous Mentorship in Health Innovation (AIM-HI) preceptor and Athabasca University supervisor, Dr. Janelle Baker for attending our event in Yellowknife with son, Arlo. I have tremendous gratitude for her help and support over these past six months.

 

Our interview with Cabin Radio (l to r): Beatrice, Sheryl & Maxine. Leading up to our community event on August 15th the Yellowknife media welcomed us to speak on radio and camera. Thank you to Lawrence Nayally for our live radio interview on Trail’s End, Ollie Williams with Cabin Radio for our recorded interview, CBC North reporter, Emily Blake for the CBC article and Paul Andrew for our television appearance on Northbeat. Please click on links below to access media.