Healthy Living in the North

Equine facilitated wellness in Nazko

A woman poses, holding the legs of a young boy who is standing on top of a saddled horse in a field.

Jarius Boyd, youth participant, and Santania Grant, nurse and one of the creators of the program.

Drumming surrounds the round pen. An Elder smudges the horses with juniper.  The sounds of horses moving about fill the air, while youth take it all in.  This an opportunity for youth to learn about smudging, the benefits of it, and experience it for themselves.

Nazko is a First Nations community 100 km west of Quesnel, with 407 Nazko band members and approximately half living on Nazko land. The Nazko people are part of the Carrier Nation.

“When [I was asked] to come and smudge the horses off, instantly it was a yes,” says Nazko Elder Dennis Patrick. “I grew up riding horses in Trout Lake outside of Nazko; it was a way of life and it helped us to do our work. We rode almost every day as kids. We did our work/chores on horses but as children it brought us a lot of joy and play time. I like watching how the kids are interacting with the horses and learning how to act in a way that keeps them safe and respects the animal. As a Nazko Elder, it brings me great joy to see our children outside working and playing with horses. To my way of thinking, this is health.”

Santania Grant is a nurse at the Nazko Health Center alongside Health Director Anita Andreychuk. They both felt that there was a gap in youth programming and that a youth focused equine program would be a natural fit. Santania, who made a living working with horses prior to becoming a nurse, developed the program in use today, and delivers this program as an independent contractor.

A young girl in a red hoodie stands next to a horse that is decorated with paint.

Youth participant Nevaeh Boyd stands with Rio, the kind and gentle horse central to the equine facilitated wellness work. Photo by Santania Grant.

“Horses are not new to Nazko,” says Santania about the youth equine facilitated wellness program in Nazko. “Elders talk to me about their parents or grandparents who rode. Horses were a way of life for the Nazko people.”

The equine facilitated wellness (EFW) builds on this tradition and helps support wellness, healing, and self-discovery through engaging with horses.

While working with horses, caring from them, learning how to lead them, tuning into their feelings, and riding them, the youth embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Rio is the horse central to this EFW work. Safety is crucial to any EFW program and Rio is just the horse for this. She is kind and gentle. According to Santania, equine partners (horses) can help youth overcome trauma and adversity through their gentle connection.

Along with learning to ride, the youth create dream boards of their personal goals with the help of Lyndsey Rhea, Aboriginal Patient Liaison (APL) from G.R. Baker Hospital. They also learn about healthy eating and receive nutritious meals and snacks.

A young boy wearing a hockey helmet, holding a rope tied to a horse, looks up at a man holding feathers and items for smudging.

Greyson Laurent, a youth participant in the program. Photo by Santania Grant.

“I have been lucky to be involved with the Youth EFW program in Nazko,” says Lyndsey. “As the APL, it’s a good opportunity for me to get to know the kids and their parents and to build relationships and help address any healthcare needs. I have been able to work with the kids to set healthy goals and dreams by making vision boards. Santania is an amazing facilitator and makes every child feel safe and special. It’s amazing to see how proud the youth are as they begin to learn new skills.”

Families in Nazko come to watch the youth and build connections with the rest of the healthcare team and health services professionals. This program creates a culturally safe space where participants and families feel respected and free from discrimination, and where healing from intergenerational traumas from colonialism and residential school can occur.

“The EFW helps to build self-esteem, healthy habits, and pride and is an asset to the entire community,” says Lyndsey.

Santania explains that some of the youth that gave her the hardest time have really flourished. Some of these youth are even mentoring other youth and sharing knowledge they have gained.

Through EFW, horses can assist youth cultivate empathy and respect for the environment, leadership skills, and teamwork. This program has been running for two summers and is very popular among Nazko youth ages 5-15.

For more information about the equine program in Nazko contact Santania Grant grantsantania@gmail.com or Lyndsey Rhea Lyndsey.rhea@northernhealth.ca.

A young boy holds up a poster board, titled Dream Board, with magazine cut outs of horses and cowboys.

Laine Clement shares his dream board of his personal goals. Photo by Santania Grant.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Looking back at Orange Shirt Day: photo round up

This Monday marked the seventh annual Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day is a day to remember, to witness, and to honour the healing journey of residential-school survivors and their families, and to demonstrate a commitment to processes of reconciliation.

NH staff and physicians were out in full-force, wearing their brightest orange shirts to show support for residential school survivors. Check out the photos below to see who participated!

Four women stand in front of an office building, wearing orange shirts.

Northern Health staff, in Prince George, pose for Orange Shirt Day (left to right: Anne Scott, Regional Manager, Corporate and Program Communications, Corporate Communications; Shelby Petersen, Coordinator, Web Services, Indigenous Health; Sanja Knezevic, Communications Advisor, HR, and; Bailee Denicola, Communications Advisor, Primary & Community Care and Clinical Programs.

Staff wear their orange shirts, standing on a stair case in a hospital.

Staff of Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay – Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre wear orange to help mark the seventh annual Orange Shirt Day.
(left to right: Jackie Jones, Cleaner/Laundry Worker/Housekeeper/Cook, Housekeeping/Food Services; Louis Waters, Health Information Clerk, Patient Registration; Laurie Husband, Team Lead, Interprofessional Team 1; Abby Fraser, Cleaner / Laundry Worker, Housekeeping / Laundry + Linen; Patti Jones, Forbes Pharmacy; Gwen Davis, Charge Technologist, Multi-Function Lab; Nadine Jones, Administrative Assistant; Ashley Beauchamp, Medical Lab Aide, Multi-Function Lab; Magdalena Saied, Forbes Pharmacy; Kerry Laidlaw, Site Administrator, Northern Health – NW.)

A woman and child proudly wear their orange shirts.

Prince Rupert Regional Hospital Aboriginal Patient Liason (APL) Mary Wesley and her granddaughter Hannah Lewis pose for Orange Shirt Day.

A woman smiles, wearing her orange shirt.

Victoria Carter, Lead for Engagement and Integration, Indigenous Health, poses in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

 

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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September 30 is Orange Shirt Day

A middle-aged woman wearing an Orange Shirt Day shirt that says "every child matters" holds an orange frame and a sign. The sign also says, "every child matters."

Victoria Carter, Lead Engagement and Integration
Indigenous Health, at the Kitsumkalum Orange Shirt Day in 2016.

You may notice more people than usual wearing orange shirts today!

It’s Orange Shirt Day – a day to remember, to witness, and to honour the healing journey of residential-school survivors and their families, and to demonstrate a commitment to processes of reconciliation.

The day celebrates the resilience of Indigenous Peoples and communities and provides an opportunity for all people in Canada to engage in discussions or provide acknowledgement and support in addressing the brutal legacy of the residential school system.

Orange Shirt Day was born out of Phyllis’ story. In 1973, when Phyllis (Jack) Webstad was six years old, she was sent to the Mission School near Williams Lake.

Phyllis’ story reminds us everyday of the children that were taken from their families and sent to residential schools. Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year.

Residential schools are a dark part of Canadian history and learning about them can be hard for many people. As hard as it may be for some to learn about residential schools and our shared colonial history, it’s critical to acknowledge and recognize these topics in a spirit of reconciliation and for future generations of children.

If you’re interested in learning more about residential schools, here are some helpful resources:

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Creating Visual Narratives of Care and Cultural Safety with Lisa Boivin

Lisa Boivin and her art is pictured.

Lisa Boivin shown with some of her colourful and vibrant art.

Lisa Boivin, a member of Deninu Kue First Nation in the Northwest Territories, completed her Doctoral Studies at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute within the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. Her upcoming workshop called Creating Visual Narratives of Care and Cultural Safety is coming to Prince George.

Lisa started drawing four years ago to help her get through her classes. During an interview with CBC’s Unreserved, Lisa remarked that her introduction to art isn’t as romantic as one would assume.

“There really is no long, romantic history of longing to learn how to paint – it was literally just hating what I was studying.”

After one of her professors expressed concern that her doodling was disruptive to the class, Lisa began to use digital painting apps on her computer – creating her signature style of using bright, vibrant colours on a black backdrop.

As a Sixties Scoop survivor, art soon became an even greater refuge for Lisa. The Sixties Scoop is a part of Canadian history when Indigenous children were taken from their families and adopted out to white families – some as far away as Europe.

As Lisa learned about colonialism, cultural displacement, and intergenerational trauma in the classroom, she was also reconnecting with her father and processing her own personal history. When it came time to submit an assignment, Lisa found that words were not sufficient to express what she had to say. Instead, Lisa asked if she could hand in an arts-based project. Feedback was positive from her professor. So, she continued using painting as a teaching tool.

Today, Lisa works as an arts-based health care educator. Using image-based storytelling (an Indigenous teaching style), Lisa educates current and future health care professionals on the obstacles that Indigenous patients face as they navigate the Canadian health care system.

Lisa’s presentation can be broken down into three sections:

  • The first section provides a personal account of Canada’s colonial history as it relates to the health outcomes of Lisa and her family.
  • The second and third sections include reflexive, arts-based exercises that use image-based story telling to explore nation building in the workplace and to create a visual narrative of the clinical and personal self.

The afternoon of learning will begin with a tour of the Two Rivers Gallery REDRESS exhibit, followed by a lunch for participants and Lisa’s three-section workshop.

Organized by the Health Arts Research Centre, with help from the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health and Northern Health (NH), this free afternoon workshop takes place on Friday, October 4, 2019 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Two Rivers Gallery. NH staff and physicians are welcome to register, but space is limited! Before registering, NH staff should discuss attending with their manager if this event takes place during regular work hours, or if coverage or travel would be required.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Language leads the way to an improved health care experience: New Gitxsan phrasebook helps doctors and patients communicate

A person's legs are in the foreground, wearing moccasins, and traditional leggings. More similarly dressed people are blurred in the background.

Photo: Nathan Combs, Wolf & Water Photography & Creative Framing

This article first appeared in Northern Health – Health and Wellness in the North, Summer 2019.

Think back to your last visit to your family doctor – did someone greet you in your own language? If you couldn’t easily talk with the doctor, how would you have felt?

Language doesn’t just help us communicate; it’s how we create cultural history, traditions, and memories.

In 2015, Northern Health signed a commitment to help everyone feel respected and safe when they interact with the health care system. Having good access to health care is important, but so is having a positive experience, and hearing your own language is an important part of this.

A page of the phrasebook teaches readers words for parts of the hand on the top, and has a picture of a woman on the bottom.

A page from the booklet; Nikat’een is one of the Elders who provided input.

Recognizing this, Northern Health’s Northwest East (Smithers and area) Indigenous Health Improvement Committee released the Gitxsan Phrasebook for Health Care Providers in 2017. The project tried to answer the question, “How can Hazelton make health care more accessible for the local Indigenous population?”

The same team has now released a follow up booklet with specific health care phrases in Gitxsan, plus common symptoms and names of body parts.

“More than anything, the resource was created to teach people who don’t speak Gitxsan some basic phrases and help them communicate with native speakers,” says Angie Combs (Wii Sim Ts’aan) who helped organize both projects. Combs is an Aboriginal Patient Liaison at Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton.

She says the process started with a few people interested in learning the language and grew from there.

Creating the two volumes wasn’t easy: Gitxsan is considered an endangered language, with only about 1,000 speakers left.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Combs met with local Elders and Knowledge Holders (many of whom are featured in the booklet) to collect words and phrases, and to gain insights on how health care can be improved from the Indigenous perspective.

A man and three women all display the new phrasebook.

Staff at Wrinch Memorial Hospital are happy to have this new resource. (Left to right: Doug Eftoda, Maintenance Manager; Linda Bonnefoy, Lifeskills Worker; Maureen den Toom, Manager, Patient Care Services; Jessica McFaul, Administrative Assistant)

Combs notes that while many community members can understand English, hearing your doctor say something as simple as “Hindahl wila win?” (“How are you?”) in Gitxsan “really makes you feel good.”

Combs and the Northwest East Indigenous Health Improvement Committee have given the booklet to health care providers at Wrinch Memorial Hospital to honour and support their ongoing commitment to cultural safety for everyone in the community. The booklet is pocket-sized, making it easy for doctors to use when talking to their patients.

To help non-Gitxsan-speakers feel more confident, the booklet spells out words and phrases phonetically alongside their English translations.

As well, Hazelton health care facilities will soon display posters featuring Gitxsan health care phrases. You can also get digital copies of the phrase book through Northern Health’s Indigenous Health website.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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