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: email@example.com.
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.