Healthy Living in the North

Reflections on storytelling & spiritual health

As part of a recent project on healthy aging, I asked Semiguul (Fanny Nelson, Elder from Metlakatla) to share her thoughts on storytelling and spiritual health. She reflected on the importance of both of these ideas and, with National Aboriginal Day just around the corner, I wanted to share her insights with you.

Semiguul (Fanny Nelson, Elder from Metlakatla)

Semiguul (Fanny Nelson, Elder from Metlakatla)

On storytelling:

Story telling, in our culture, is the teaching and passing down of our knowledge. In our culture, the ‘Adaawx’ is our way of teaching the history of our people. The Tsimshian people.

On spiritual health:

Everything we did and were taught was how to pray for everything we take from the Creator. Cedar from the tree, fish from the sea, hide from the deer or moose which we used to make clothing. Whatever we took from the Creator, we gave thanks. We were also taught, only take what you need.

What do storytelling and spiritual health mean to you?

Find a Day of Wellness / National Aboriginal Day event near you.

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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Foodie Friday: Salmon and a celebration of Indigenous heritage, cultures, and foods

Canned salmon

Salmon can be prepared and enjoyed in so many ways. It is delicious and nutritious!

Salmon, salmon, salmon … so delicious and nutritious! Canned, fried, baked, dried, smoked, candied, pickled … the possibilities are endless! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Salmon fishing season is approaching for many people across northern B.C. and my partner has been preparing for weeks. Last weekend he brought home our first spring salmon of the year from the Skeena River.

A fishing net along the Skeena River - where Victoria's partner recently caught his first spring salmon of the year!

A fishing net along the Skeena River – where Victoria’s partner recently caught his first spring salmon of the year!

Not only is salmon so delicious, it’s also very nutritious. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids that help protect against strokes and heart disease. When eating canned salmon, be sure to mash up the bones as they are a good source of calcium, making our bones and teeth strong. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is important in keeping our bones strong as well as protecting us from arthritis and cancer. Salmon meat, skin, head and eggs also provide protein and B vitamins.

Mother and daughter in a selfie

Fishing for salmon can be a family affair! Victoria and her daughter spend quality time together watching her partner fish! Photo by Hannah Litkw Stewart.

Salmon has been a staple food of coastal First Nations since time immemorial. Aboriginal Day is June 21 and is a great opportunity to celebrate Indigenous heritage, cultures, and foods. Some events even include salmon! For example, Saaynangaa Naay-Skidegate Health Centre is hosting Haida games, storytelling and a salmon meal! Gitlaxt’aamiks is hosting a soapberry ice cream contest and fish preparation contests. Check out an Aboriginal Day event in your area, including over 100 Day of Wellness events supported by the First Nations Health Authority! Find an event in your community and come out and celebrate Aboriginal Day!

Want to add salmon to your menu? Baked salmon is a great treat. Here is one of my favorite baked salmon recipes to try:

Dilled Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 (6 oz) salmon fillets

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, dill, mustard and syrup.
  3. Place fillets in a medium glass baking dish and cover with the marinade.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes/inch or until cooked through and easily flaked with a fork. Do not overcook.

Enjoy!

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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Foodie Friday: Nature provides

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are one of several edible plants available in our region.

Spring is here. I can feel it. Can you feel it too? The sun is out and I just want to be outside as much as I can. I can’t wait to get my fingers in the earth. I’m excited by the new shoots showing up. This is a great season to learn about the gifts that spring gives to nourish us.

My partner is from the Kitselas First Nation and he has gathered ostrich fern fiddleheads for years. He watches the signs of spring and knows just when and where to find them. It’s quite an art. Without his help, I would probably gather the wrong thing. Last year, we harvested stinging nettle, too. It was so delicious! I could almost taste the nutrients dancing in my mouth. Of course, we had to use thick gloves to pick it and cook it so as to avoid a nasty sting.

Want to try gathering and cooking fiddleheads this spring? Here’s how!

For centuries, First Nations and Aboriginal people have been harvesting plants. This has been an important part of their diet and medicine. Nutritional information shows us that wild plants are often much higher in nutrients than other, store-bought vegetables.

Mint

Wild mint is another edible plant available in northern B.C. Check with elders or knowledge holders in your community before heading out to gather!

There are some great resources available on edible plants. The spring is a great opportunity to take one of these books, get outdoors with your family, and enjoy nature’s treasure hunt. I am no expert, so I encourage you to check with elders and knowledge holders in your communities to learn what is safe to gather, when to gather it, and protocols you need to respect and areas you should or shouldn’t gather in. Also, take care not to overharvest and to avoid zones that have been sprayed to avoid environmental contaminants.

Here are some great resources to start you out on your gathering journey:

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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Healthy aging with Dzi’is

Woman walking on pipeline.

Walking the water pipeline with Gramma to pick berries. (Photo by Ann King)

How do you age well? I could tell you about research on the importance of active engagement and participating in productive activities that promote societal values (if you’re interested, I recommend checking out work by Verena H. Menec), but research has never been my best teacher.

My Dzi’is (Gramma*) taught me, among many other things, how to live and age well. She went to be with her sisters and brothers last July 14th but her lessons and memories remain.

I remember being 10 years old and harvesting eeyaans** (black chiton – a type of mollusk) with Gramma and my mom at Ridley Island near Prince Rupert. Gramma had her hair done and was dressed impeccably with her black ballet-style flats. We carried with us ice cream buckets and butter knives to pry the eeyaans off the rocks so that we could collect them. Gramma led the way and at one point she asked us to help her down a jagged six to seven foot rock face to reach a prime harvesting spot while the tide was out.

My mother climbed down first, leaving me at the top to lower my 60-year-old Gramma down to her. I remember thinking, as I held her forearms and hands, “This is way too much responsibility for me! I’m dangling Gramma off a tiny cliff for food!” My mom guided Gramma’s ballet flats into good footholds and she made it down in one piece! We went home, exhausted, with full buckets and Gramma went to work cooking up what we had harvested.

Young girl with bucket

Jessie picking berries and flowers with Gramma and mom.
(Photo by Ann King)

All of my memories of my Dzi’is involve food gathering (eeyaans and berries) or hunting in local markets and second-hand stores for treasures; all of which exhausted me and energized her. She taught me to stay active and social and to keep your family busy. She never spoke directly about how she felt about aging, but she definitely did it well!

Through her example, I learned the importance of activities that promote not only societal values, but cultural and traditional ones, too. Aging well for her was being Tsimshian and everything that identity encompasses.


Notes

* There are many variants of some Sm’algyax (Tsimshian) words such as Gramma or Grandma – Dzi’is or Tsi’i’is are common versions.

** Eeyaan, commonly known as the black leather chiton, is a type of mollusk harvested from the bottom or sides of rocks in heavy surf areas.


This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Healthier You magazine. All past issues of the magazine are available online.

 

 

Jessie King

About Jessie King

Jessie, Hadiksm Gaax, was born in raised in Prince Rupert and came to Prince George in 2005 to attend UNBC. Her role at Northern Health is within the Aboriginal Health department as the Lead of Research and Community Engagement. When she isn’t working on her PhD in Health Science, she is out and about exploring, swimming, and playing with her little family. She is a member of the Tsimshian Nation and belongs to the Ganhada (Raven Clan).

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A video from North Coast First Nations for health care providers

Man in First Nations regalia

A still frame from the opening of Honouring our Journey, a newly released video that provides information for health care providers about the Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, history, and how these impact their health care needs.


“The door is open for you to learn,” says Kitkatla Councillor, Timothy Innes. “Learn how our culture is and what it entails … and who we are, then (you) can work with us more comfortably … you’re not intruding.”

The North Coast Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is pleased to launch a video, Honouring Our Journey, that provides information for health care providers about the Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, history, and how these impact their health care needs.

“If doctors and nurses come with an open mind and are genuine, lots will be returned to them as our people are kind and generous,” says Elizabeth Moore, an Elder in Old Masset.

In 2014-2015, Aboriginal Health provided financial support to each of the nine AHICs in the north to develop local cultural resources. These resources were guided by the question, “If I were a new health care practitioner in your community, what would you want me to know?”

In the video, Lauren Brown, the Health Director in Skidegate, encourages health care providers to consider “the whole person, including their beliefs and traditions.” Cindy Ignas, the Health Director in Kitkatla advises,

“You have to really listen and be very careful to not make any judgements and to understand the cultural lens that you bring as a non-First Nations person … step back from your biases, assumptions, and judgements and try to really learn, be curious and ask lots of questions.”

Betty Reece, the Health Director in Lax Kw’alaams, says, “Come out and meet the people apart from your workplace.”

This impactful video covers important and relevant topics such as:

  • the present day impacts of Residential School experiences on health care interactions,
  • the current role of traditional medicines and the importance of health care providers asking about their use to prevent possible negative interactions with prescribed medications,
  • the importance of using plain language, including family and/or translators in the appointment, and
  • learning about the gathering and use of traditional foods in health and well-being.

I highly encourage you to watch this 25 minute video and share it with others. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, Mary Wesley, video producer and the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Prince Rupert and for the North Coast, would be happy to connect and even to facilitate group discussions following a screening.

This video is a beautiful gift from the North Coast First Nations in hopes that we all are inspired to continue our learning journeys towards a culturally safe health care system for all First Nations and Aboriginal people. Another way to develop your understanding of First Nations and Aboriginal peoples is the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, an online course by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

A booklet summarizes the cultural resources developed by AHICs across the north.

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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Healthy living for healthy aging

Woman on a boat

“Food, lifestyle, getting back to the land, going for walks, being at peace and enjoying what’s around you – these do matter.” Judy Gerow shares her thoughts on health and aging.

Judy Gerow is member of the Kitselas First Nation and has been in Band Council for over 20 years: two years as Chief and the rest as Councillor. She is a mother of six, a stepmother of an additional six, and is also raising her granddaughter. Throughout her whole life, her health has been on her mind. I had the privilege of asking Judy a few questions about her experiences of health and aging and am excited to share her thoughts and story below.

Do you believe that health is a journey?

Yes, absolutely, I think it’s a journey! Your physical and mental health play a big part in your well-being and need to be in balance to be truly healthy.

When did you start really considering your health?

Even though I have always been thinking about my health, it was after I became a mother that I realized how important it was to take care of myself so that I was here for my children.

My kids are a real motivation for me. Now that I am raising my granddaughter, I want to take care of myself to make sure I am here for her until she can be on her own.

What things are you doing to keep you healthy?

I try to watch what I eat and I don’t drink alcohol or smoke. I keep myself involved in various activities, many of which are physical such as my volunteer role in the fire department. I like to fish and hunt and through this, challenge my body to keep up with others and carry what I can. I garden, too.

Family is also very important to me; we are a large and close family and look forward to getting together for family dinners. As I get older, I spend more time thinking about my life, what matters, and how I can live this to the fullest.

How does this healthy lifestyle make you feel?

I feel a sense of pride that I can still pull my own weight, even though I can’t carry as much as I could in my youth. My role model is my mother. She is 84 years old and she’s still going strong. When she was in her 60’s, I had a hard time keeping up to her. She would get up at dawn and preserve fruits and vegetables until late at night. She is slowing down now due to health concerns. She has macular degeneration but she still cuts fish, even though she does it now by feel.

When I’m out on the river or in the bush, I have time to reflect and focus on the land and the environment. I find that very spiritual and I get a sense of belonging when I’m out there. It’s like I can feel the presence of my ancestors who walked before me for thousands of years.

How do you think having a healthy lifestyle now will support your health in the future?

I think it will help me to live longer and to remain active. I couldn’t imagine not being active. I want to be just like my mom! When I was growing up, I used to tell my friends that I didn’t want to be like my mother. It’s ironic that no matter how hard I tried to do things differently, I end up like her! My mother is always there, a focus in my life.

What are you most looking forward to about being healthy as you age?

I look forward to being active and having a fulfilling life where I can do what I want and not be a burden to anyone. I want to remain independent as long as I can.

If you could share one message with others about your journey, what would that message be?

When you are younger, you don’t think about what it’s going to be like when you’re older. Choices one makes when they are young do matter in the future, that is the message I would like to share.

Every summer was like bootcamp for me. I was busy keeping up to my husband as we hunted or fished together. I wasn’t paying attention to my body. Parts of my body are starting to give me more problems now – like my knees and my elbows – from pushing myself too much then, packing heavy loads, and jumping off rocks.

My husband passed away five years ago from lung cancer. He was a smoker and a drinker. I chose not to so I could be there for my children. My current partner has diabetes and heart disease from not taking care earlier.

Everyone needs to start taking care of themselves and be more conscious of what’s around them. Food, lifestyle, getting back to the land, going for walks, being at peace and enjoying what’s around you – these do matter.

I never had an interest in gardening even when I had watched my mom do it. Yet, last year, we planted a garden and what came up was wonderful! I found it so relaxing; I could just get lost in it. I could sit in that garden, pulling weeds and not think of anything and before I knew it, four hours had passed! Work and other things in my life slipped away. We all need to do more of this. Life is too fast-paced. I’m going on a vacation soon. My partner and I are taking our motorhome and just going – no destination or timeline! Stress-free!

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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Introducing a unique book on Indigenous determinants of health

Two book editors sitting behind poster of book cover.

What began as a casual conversation over breakfast is now a valuable book on Indigenous determinants of health. Photo courtesy of UNBC.

Have you ever had one of those “aha!” moments over morning toast and coffee? I’m so glad that three B.C. scholars had one such moment back in 2011! Because of their exchange of ideas over a casual breakfast, we now have access to a unique new collection of Indigenous perspectives on health and well-being in northern B.C. and Canada more broadly. I’m excited to tell you about it!

I will begin by introducing the concept of social determinants of health. According to the World Health Organization, they are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels” and “are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status” between groups.

To set the stage, by 2011 when the book was first imagined, a “social determinants of health” framework was increasingly accepted as important for understanding why different groups of people have different health outcomes and why this is unfair. But there were also limits to the conversations, particularly as they related to Indigenous peoples’ health. For example, colonialism was yet to be fully and consistently recognized as a significant determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health. As well, much of the research on the social determinants of Indigenous peoples’ health was a subsection of broader work instead of a unique area for sustained focus. And it was often conducted by non-Indigenous people.

So, casually over breakfast at a conference one autumn morning in 2011, Drs. Margo Greenwood, Sarah de Leeuw and Charlotte Loppie (Reading) conceived of an idea for a ground-breaking book that would address these limits. It would be about a broader understanding of determinants of Indigenous health in Canada and it would be a unique compilation of ideas, perspectives, and stories written primarily by Indigenous people. The three of them decided over breakfast to work together to make that book a reality!

They began to brainstorm Indigenous scholars, activists, clinicians, and community leaders who would likely have something to say about First Nations, Métis and Inuit well-being in Canada. Sometime later, after chapters had begun to pour in, Indigenous artists were also invited to contribute works that sought to creatively illuminate questions about Indigenous health. Poems, short stories, and reproductions of contemporary totem poles were added to the research contributions.

And then, in August this year, what started as a breakfast chat was published as Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in Canada: Beyond the Social, edited by Greenwood, de Leeuw, Reading and Lindsay (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2015). This book is an invitation to think about health inequities lived by Indigenous people in Canada through the voices, stories and experiences of Indigenous people.

Explaining why this book is important, Greenwood said:

These are stories that document resilience, strength, and solutions from a health context, offering a richness of information far beyond what we would ordinarily see in discussions centred only on the basic social determinants of health.

In de Leeuw’s words:

What makes this book special is that it is has been written by Indigenous people about Indigenous people and their viewpoints on health. It also provides an artistic lens on health issues rarely seen in academic medical texts. The book includes creative voice in the form of poems, stories and other art that provide a unique and serious reflection on health status.

I wanted to share this book with you because these issues impact all of us and I believe that a better understanding of Indigenous perspectives of health and well-being can make a difference in all of our work, our communities, and our lives!


Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in Canada: Beyond the Social can be ordered through your local bookstore or online through Canadian Scholars’ Press. The book was supported through the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

All royalties from the book are going to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Media Coverage

This blog post was informed by an article from the NCCAH.

Hilary McGregor

About Hilary McGregor

Hilary is the Lead of Knowledge Translation and Community Engagement for Aboriginal Health. She feels privileged to work for Northern Health, particularly within this department, because she gets to apply her passion for creativity, critical thinking, and quality to important issues related to health equity for Indigenous people in the north. Hilary is grateful for the opportunity to live on the beautiful traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh in Prince George, where she keeps busy renovating an older home, playing with her young nephew and niece, walking her feisty chihuahua, gardening and taking in the surrounding outdoors.

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Celebrating First Nations traditional foods

Community garden in greenhouse structure

At community gardens like this one in Cheslatta, First Nations communities are building on the knowledge and skills of Elders to ensure access to healthy food for all. Have you tried any First Nations traditional foods?
(Photo credit: Hilary McGregor, Aboriginal Health, Northern Health)

Many Elders and health providers from First Nations communities have shared their knowledge with me about traditional foods. I am repeatedly surprised by the flavour, nutritional value and health benefits of traditional foods. I tell my significant other, who is a member of the Kitselas First Nation, that his canned salmon is like “pure gold” because of how much work and care he puts into harvesting and processing the fish – not to mention how amazing it tastes!

Working as a dietitian, I have learned nutritional information about traditional foods that I didn’t know before. For example, seaweed is an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Moose is rich in protein and B vitamins. Most wild game is higher in nutrients than livestock and food products made from livestock like bologna and wieners.

My children are Nisga’a and we were fortunate to be given some eulachon this year. Eulachon are small, oil-rich fish that spawn in rivers along the west coast. They are high in vitamin A and calcium. Vitamin A helps our bodies to fight infection and keeps our eyes and skin healthy while calcium helps to keep our bones and teeth strong.

In addition to the nutritional value of the food itself, another great advantage of traditional food gathering is the health benefits from harvesting such as connecting with the land and with one’s culture and family, as well as exercise. These are important aspects of holistic health and well-being.

Gardening is another way to access fresh and nutritious food, connect with family, and be physically active. In my work, I notice more First Nations communities across the north developing community gardens and harvesting or growing traditional plants and medicines. Many of these communities are remote and have limited access to healthy store-bought foods, which is all the more reason to build on the knowledge and skills of Elders to ensure access to healthy food for all.

There is so much to learn, celebrate and sustain! For more information on traditional foods and nutrition, check out the First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets from the First Nations Health Authority.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

 

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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Ts’uhoont’l Whuzhadel – Welcome – Bienvenue

Lheidli: “where the two rivers flow together”

T’enneh: “the People”

First Nations art on building depicting a heart with the words: "The Spirit of the Heart Welcomes our Canadian Athletes".

For the first time ever, the Canada Games have an Official Host First Nation. The 2015 Canada Winter Games are taking place on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh.

It seems that Prince George is a national leader once again! For the first time ever, the First Nation on whose territory the Canada Winter Games are being held has been invited to co-host the Games and has participated fully as a true partner and Host First Nation. The flag of the Lheidli T’enneh people flies proudly alongside all of the flags that celebrate the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George; equally represented.

However, this partnership is more than just the symbolism of flags. The 2015 Canada Winter Games organizers have been immersed in the practical and nitty-gritty details of pulling off a successful winter games event – such as making sure speedskaters had the right safety bumpers and that partners like Northern Health could help ensure top-notch medical response and first aid readiness. Yet at the same time, they also worked hard in this new arena of building a meaningful relationship with the keepers of the traditional territory. In finding the proper and respectful ways to work together with a local First Nation, the 2015 Canada Winter Games Committee has made sure the first ever Host First Nation experience in Prince George has set the bar for all others to follow!

The Dakelh (Carrier) people have lived upon this land for untold centuries and were frequently hosts to gatherings. Thus, hosting an event at the place “where the two rivers flow together” is not a new experience for the local First Nation! Traditional protocols observe and respect the roles of both host and visitor. While these protocols have governed relations on the land for centuries they are still fresh and useful in the modern world. The Lheidli T’enneh have brought these ancient skills to the modern venue of the Canada Winter Games.

The story of a journey – the theme of the winter games and the heart of the opening ceremonies – also honoured the lives and history of the people of Lheidli T’enneh for their tens of centuries of living on this land. The contributions of Dakelh people are seen throughout these games. The work of Dakelh artists are evident everywhere, from the broad sweep of the shapes and colours in the official 2015 Canada Winter Games banners lining the streets to the fine details of the medals and from the wraps surrounding the pillars at the Civic Plaza to the shop windows of downtown businesses. This generous sharing of Carrier culture marked and deepened the experience of the Games for visitors and residents alike.

In the heart of downtown Prince George, often seen as a troublesome area in need of revitalization, the Lheidli T’enneh pavilion has anchored an ongoing warm winter welcome offered by Prince George and the Host First Nation. Sharing food, music and culture is the life blood here in the pavilion. The sound of drums and the performances by talented musicians and singers surrounded by food and history and culture resonates and draws in visitors. So much so that if you want to be in the audience for the 9:30 performance, I was told by a laughing greeter, “you had better be in a seat by 8:30.”

In every case where the Lheidli T’enneh have walked in the Games, the power and significance of the Games has been magnified. The opening ceremonies spoke to all who call this fair land home. The story of the river and the people was laid down, followed by the railroad and highway. The athletes walked these pathways as they entered, and by walking the symbolic land, the stage was set for the ceremonies. All nations were represented in the opening ceremonies but the centre-piecing of the Lheidli T’enneh opened the eyes of viewers to the depth and richness of Dakelh culture. The overall impression – that Prince George has got talent – was obvious. From Tristan Ghostkeeper’s athletic artistry to the little ones who sang and bounced for joy in their performances, to the pride of Chief Frederick, the message was clear: you don’t need to spend a ton of money on big name acts to move people to tears of pride. You just need to look at those amongst whom you live and see the gifts in the place that we call home.

The Games celebrate winter – one of the two seasons in northern B.C. (winter and not winter!) – in a profound way: by bringing young athletes to a national stage where they can ply their sport on snow or ice. In this shared space – a place where all eyes focus on youth and their future – we have found a way to be together honourably, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, as hosts to the Games.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love – teaching.

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2014 All Native Basketball Tournament: More than a sporting event

Basketball painted with First Nations art

The 2015 All Native Basketball Tournament runs from Feb. 8-14 in Prince Rupert. In addition to the high-performance sport, the tournament is a place for connection, community, health, and culture to come together.

Unity, pride, and community: these are the off-court principles that push the All Native Basketball Tournament to its inarguable success. Held in Prince Rupert every February, 2014’s event drew thousands of spectators and 56 basketball teams from aboriginal communities across the north. Being held for over 50 years, it has the honour of being the longest-held sports event in B.C.

It is a destination and focus for northern communities, as the prestige associated with the tournament encourages healthy choices by team members, their families and supporters in the run-up to the games themselves. For many communities, the annual trip to the tournament is an important social and cultural event as they can gather with friends and families from other remote communities. The sport and cultural atmosphere is a powerful connection and place of belonging for the communities and Nations who attend.

Northern Health tobacco reduction sign that reads: "Basketball Yes, Tobacco No"

Northern Health has been involved in the All Native Basketball Tournament since 2006. If you are at the tournament this year, stop by and say hello!

Northern Health is proud to be part of the event since 2006, which started with one lone table on tobacco reduction. Since then, Northern Health’s presence has grown alongside of the tournament. In the past, we have offered a more clinical service through the offering of health screenings. In 2014, we sponsored and hosted a quiet space furnished with cozy furniture and low lighting. This space offered a retreat where Elders could rest in comfort, nursing moms could feed their babies in peace, and traditional stories were shared. Health screenings were still offered, but the focus was on the gathering and comforting space, rather than the clinical space. The space was reflective of supporting a complete healthy community; a way of integrating social and cultural gathering with health services. While the tournament is an important contributor to the health and well-being of northern First Nations, in 2014, for the first time, people spoke of the tournament as a place where, sport, culture and health comes together.


This article was co-authored by Theresa Healy and Doreen Bond and originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of A Healthier You.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love – teaching.

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