Healthy Living in the North

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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Aboriginal/Indigenous Health Improvement Committees: what are they and how do they impact health care in the North?

The Local Cultural Guide guide is pictured. The cover features a stunning image of a totem, as well as a wood building with Indigenous art on it.

The Local Cultural Resources Guide, created by the A/IHICs, supports health practitioners’ understanding of Indigenous community cultures, histories, and contexts.

Aboriginal/Indigenous Health Improvement Committees (A/IHICs) are action oriented groups of people who work together to support health and wellness for Indigenous people, families, and communities in Northern BC.

The A/IHICs began in 2005 and there are now eight across the Northern Health (NH) region:

NH is committed to partnering with Indigenous peoples and communities, and to building a health care system that honours diversity and provides culturally safe services.

The A/IHICs are made up of many different types of people, including local representation from Indigenous communities and organizations, the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, and other sectors.

A/IHICs provide opportunities for new connections and stronger relationships and cultural understandings between diverse communities and sectors working for the health and well-being of Indigenous people and communities.

The members of each A/IHIC bring perspectives and experiences from people who live in their communities and access health care. Through the A/IHICs, Indigenous peoples’ perspectives inform local priorities and solutions!

The work of the A/IHICs is driven by three key questions:

  1. If I was a new practitioner coming to your community, what would you like me to know about you so that I could serve you better?
  2. What is it that you need to know so that you can be the best practitioner that you can be?
  3. What is it that we need to know to be the very best partner that we can be to communities and other organizations?

The A/IHICs operate with the principle that Indigenous health is holistic and seeks balance. At the heart of this view is an understanding that all things – land, water, air, animals, individuals, families, and communities – are connected and in relation to one another. Holistic health is a process that demands a broad and inclusive perspective for addressing health issues.

Over the years, the A/IHICs have undertaken many different projects, including mapping patient journeys across Northern BC. Patient journey and process maps are an opportunity for communities to bring their voice into the health care system and identify opportunities for change in health services, as well as to identity local solutions and concrete actions that can be taken at the local level. The gaps and challenges that were identified can be collaboratively addressed through local strategies and solutions.  If you want more information on this project, you can read the full Mapping Summary Report.

Each A/IHIC has also worked to create local cultural resources that support health practitioners’ understanding of Indigenous community cultures, histories, and contexts. Check out the Local Cultural Resources booklet (produced by NH’s Indigenous Health department) for more details.

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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National Indigenous Peoples Day events in Northern BC

A feather floats on calm water.

Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21!

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day! Across the country, Canadians have the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples share many similarities, but they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.

June 21, the summer solstice, was chosen as National Indigenous Peoples Day in cooperation with Indigenous organizations and the Government of Canada. The date was specifically chosen because many Indigenous peoples and communities celebrate their culture and heritage on or near this day – significant because of the summer solstice and because it’s the longest day of the year!

Here in Northern BC, there is no shortage of events that you and your family can attend! From Beading and Bannock in Chetwynd to a Moose Calling Contest in Smithers, families can enjoy good food and fun events while celebrating contemporary and traditional Indigenous cultures.

Here’s a selection of events happening right here in the North!

Dawson Creek and District Hospital (2 pm-3 pm)

  • Traditional Pow Wow dancers (featuring tiny tots, youth, and adult dancers)
  • Rock painting with local Métis Artist, Wayne LaRiviere
  • Bannock

Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Hall – Smithers (11 am-3:30 pm)

  • Soapberry whipping
  • Bannock demonstration
  • Children’s activities
  • Moose calling contest
  • Cedar weaving demonstrations
  • And more!

Chetwynd Hospital Board Room (10 am-12:30 pm)

  • Beading and Bannock with Geraldine Gauthier
  • Tea will be served

If you’re not sure where to find information on local Indigenous Peoples Day events in your area, check out this list of events on the Indigenous Health website! Be sure to use the hashtag #NIPDCanada to join in on the fun online and show just how excited you are!

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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Northern Table: An Elder’s impact on community food security

Elder Semiguul sits on a boat, smiling at the camera.

Metlakalta Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson).

Not having enough food to eat affects one in six children living in Canada. This can impact a child’s physical, mental, and social health.

The effects of food insecurity on health

Household food insecurity” means not having access to food because of inadequate income, and it’s connected to negative health and well-being. Those who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and suicidal thoughts [1]. However, amidst these challenges, there are people who are making a difference in building community and household food security.

One Elder making a difference

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) is from Metlakatla, a First Nations community near Prince Rupert. Metlakatla’s population is about 80 people and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Semiguul’s parents taught her how to harvest traditional foods (gathering seaweed, digging clams, and picking berries) as well as how to prepare them.

Today, Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she goes harvesting. Back at home, she prepares these foods and teaches others how to prepare them too.

“I teach them to gather and put away enough food to last, so that they don’t have a tough time in the winter months,” says Semiguul.

Semiguul and another person are on a rock shore, looking for food. Semiguul is handing down a bucket.

Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she harvests traditional foods.

Learning from our Elders

Elders have a lot to teach us about how to live off the land and waters, and about values such as generosity and caring for the environment. Reigniting harvesting strategies that have worked for millennia is called Indigenous food sovereignty. It’s an important part of ensuring community members have access to healthy foods that are sustainable and build community self-reliance (community food security).

First Nations traditional foods

First Nations traditional foods are nutritious and some have been used by Elders for generations.

“My mom told me that black currants would reduce a fever,” shares Semiguul. “I have put a spoon of black currant jam in water and it works. The fever goes down. I also gave seaweed daily to someone who had low iron and it helped.”

Respecting traditional territory and teachings

If you want to gather foods from the land, it’s important to speak with Elders or the local First Nation on whose traditional territory you are on, to learn about respectful food gathering practices. For example, Semiguul shares with children, “only take want you need to last from season to season. Break off the ends of the seaweed and leave it there as it is the seed for next year.”

More food security information

Here are some other programs that are building community food security in the region:

If you’d like to learn more about household food insecurity, take a look this three-part blog series on household food insecurity:

  1. What is household food insecurity?
  2. Food costing in BC
  3. A call to action

[1] PROOF food insecurity policy research.

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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All Native Basketball Tournament 2019 – The Diamond Anniversary

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching…” Learning how to deal with loss. I learned not to isolate and at 72 years old I joined an Elders’ walking club. 3 times a week!”

From February 10-16, the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament celebrated its diamond anniversary in Prince Rupert. The 60th annual tournament and cultural event drew participants and fans from as far as Ahousat on Vancouver Island to Hydaburg, Kake, and Metlakatla.

The original tournament was called the Northern British Columbia Coast Indian Championship Tournament and ran from 1947-1953. The inaugural 1947 tournament was held in the Roosevelt Gymnasium at what is now École Roosevelt Park Community School, attracting about 400 spectators. Due to lack of interest, the first version of the tournament was cancelled in 1953, but by 1959, the tournament was rekindled with a new name – The All Native Basket Ball Tournament (ANBT). The first ANBT was held on March 2, 1960 and continues to the present day as British Columbia’s largest basketball tournament and the largest Indigenous cultural event in Canada.

This year, the tournament saw thousands of spectators cheer nearly fifty teams competing in four divisions: intermediate, seniors’, masters’, and women’s.

All but one of the defending champions reclaimed their titles with the PR Bad Boys losing out to Skidegate Saints 85-83. The seniors’ division title went to the Kitkatla Warriors who beat out newcomers, Pigeon Park All-Stars, 102-85. The Hydaburg Warriors took home their fifth straight masters’ division title beating out the Lax Kw’alaams Hoyas 98-74. Finally, two-time defending champs, Kitamaat Woman’s Squad, bested the Similkameen Starbirds 45-36 to take home the women’s division title for the third time.

The Northern Health sponsored Raven Room

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Respect one another and respect your Elders; share and be thankful for what you have.”

Northern Health is proud to have partnered with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to sponsor the Raven Room. The Raven Room is intended to be a peaceful space for Elders to rest and take a break from the bustle of the tournament.

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) was the room’s official host while many Elders and others dropped in for k’wila’maxs tea, coffee, baked goods with locally-harvested berry jam, fruit, and good conversation. Northern Health and FNHA staff and volunteers were on hand to offer wellness checks and advice about blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol. Over 200 people visited the Raven Room and 191 people received wellness checks.

The Raven Room and wellness checks are designed to create a safe space for community members to learn about health care from a perspective outside the mainstream health care environment which can often be intimidating and uncomfortable for many. This more public space provides a safer and perhaps more familiar way to access services because others are there to witness and offer support.

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Pass my knowledge to the next generation.”

When asked what they enjoyed most about the Raven Room, one visitor responded, “I think that this service is an excellent idea – as it is hard to try and get to see your Dr. [The] waiting period at hospital is so out of this world.”

This year’s Raven Room theme was “the strength and wisdom of Elders.” Many Elders offered “their most valuable teaching” or “what they want to share with the younger generation” for an Elder’s Wisdom Wall (see photos).

FNHA also used other rooms to host great workshops about sports physiotherapy and taping, painting, and cedar weaving. Tournament participants and spectators were also invited to meet with traditional healers throughout the week.

Congratulations to all competitors and all those involved in organizing this event!

Person holding sign with advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Respect everyone! Compassion! Abuse of drugs and alcohol – say no!”

Woman holding sign with her advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Never give up, LOVE yourself is to respect yourself as a person. Find help when life pressure gets to hard. We DO LOVE you. you are not alone.”

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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First Nations communities explore and celebrate cultural models of mental wellness

When I heard the Terrace, Kitimat and Area Indigenous Health Improvement Committee (IHIC)-previously known as the Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC)- members were coming together to share examples of how their communities had embraced culture as a means of improving mental wellness, I was excited. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a cultural experience that shows off community strengths and traditional values? I knew this was going to be a memorable event for myself and all who attended – and guess what? I was not let down!

Indigenous gathering at Kitselas

Over 60 people from First Nations communities in the Northwest, came together to share how their communities had embraced culture as a means of improving mental wellness.

On June 8th, 2017, Kitselas First Nation hosted a “Celebration of Successes” event showcasing three First Nations community projects that explore mental wellness from a community and cultural perspective.

Coming together

Over 60 people from Kitselas, the Terrace/Kitimat and Area Indigenous Health Improvement Committee (IHIC), and its member communities, attended the celebration in Kulspai. The event started off with a welcome to the Tsimshian territory from elder Edward Innes and a welcome from former councillor Lynn Wright-Parker. Jennifer Brady-Giles, the Kitselas Home and Community Health Nurse facilitated the day.

Indigenous people conducting a welcome.

The event started off with a welcome to the Tsimshian territory.

Jonathan Cooper, the Northern Health Kitimat Health Services Administrator and Terrace/Kitimat and Area IHIC Chair, and I, Victoria Carter, Northern Health Lead for Engagement and Integration with Indigenous Health, gave an overview of the IHIC and its work. Communities shared their projects and attendees were even entertained by the Kitselas drummers, who performed some songs and a wonderful lunch was served that all participants shared in!

Curious about what community projects were shared? The projects came from the Kitselas First Nation, Nisga’a Valley Health Authority, and the Gitxsan West communities. Here’s what they did:

Kitselas First Nation

Kitselas showcased their youth wellness video which highlighted the current youth activities in Kitselas and their future vision.

 

Nisga’a Valley Health Authority

The Nisga’a Valley Health Authority showcased their family conference which focuses on integrating culture into health and wellness services by incorporating traditional teachings and events.

Gitxsan West

Gitxsan West communities showcased their project of reigniting Gitxsan culture within mental health.  In this project, knowledge holders from the communities came together to identify and document Gitxsan traditional mental wellness and will begin to strategize how best to reignite these practices.

Sharing success

Traditional knowledge holders met to share and to strategize how this information will be used.  Many at the celebration spoke up to praise the projects, to share their own stories, to show support of the initiatives, and to offer words of encouragement for these innovative approaches to wellness. Appreciation in the room grew as ideas of cultural renewal and its healing power were shared.

Sponsorship of the event and projects were supplied by the Terrace/Kitimat and Area IHIC. Curious what an Indigenous Health Improvement Committee (IHIC)/Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is? There are eight AHICs/IHICs across the north made up of leads from Indigenous communities, Northern Health, the First Nations Health Authority, and other sectors. AHICs/IHICs identify health challenges facing Indigenous people in the area and work collaboratively towards solutions.

At this event, Kitselas, Nisga’a Valley Health Authority, and the Gitxsan West communities shared their projects and how they have benefited their communities.  It was a great opportunity to learn about how the Terrace/Kitimat and Area IHIC, and health leads from Indigenous communities and groups like Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority, are collaborating to address community needs and suggestions in innovative ways.

Thanks go to Kitselas for hosting this amazing event!

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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Celebrating the unveiling of Gitxsan art at Wrinch Memorial Hospital

Curtain being pulled off of art piece.

Mary Vanstone and Chief George Gray unveiling the art.

This past fall, Mary Vanstone, local administrator for Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, hosted an event celebrating the unveiling of Gitxsan art. Local Indigenous artwork in health care settings helps to create a more welcoming and culturally safe space. For many people at the event, the commissioning and unveiling of this artwork was more impactful than expected.

The artwork symbolizes robes of authority with a crest that depicts the Indian Residential School experience from the Gitxsan perspective. The Northwest East Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee commissioned the art for the hospital entrance as part of an initiative funded by Aboriginal Health to develop local cultural resources.

The art was made by residential school survivors participating in the Gitxsan Health Society Indian Residential School Resolution Health Support Program. At the unveiling event, several people who participated in its creation spoke about its meaning and their experiences working on it. Indian Residential School Resolution Health Support Worker Pamela Torres described the sessions where Indian Residential School survivors and family members from Kispiox, Sikedakh, and Gitanmaax came together, shared their stories, experiences, tears, and laughter as they worked to complete the beautiful artwork.

Also at the event, fellow support worker Gary Patsey described his experiences as an Indian Residential School survivor. He spoke about specific statistics of residential school impacts on the Gitxsan Huwilp and shared sensitive insights into his journey of healing. He challenged service providers to educate themselves on the 94 Calls to Action flowing from the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Ardythe Wilson, manager of the support program, concluded the event with a reminder that all health care workers and service providers in the area are in positions where they can become partners of true reconciliation by working with, and supporting, the Gitxsan in developing a reconciliation model. The unveiling was a significant event and those in attendance were visibly moved.

The art was designed by Michelle Stoney, whose grandparents survived residential school and now actively promote Gitxsan history and culture. The crest represents the four clans of the Gitxsan Huwilp inside a mother and child, portraying the matrilineal foundation of the Gitxsan Nation. It recognizes those who suffered the abduction of their children and the intergenerational healing that continues to take place as a result of the long-reaching impacts of residential schools.

Vanstone shared:

It was an honour to help organize and be part of this event. The unveiling event provided an open forum for discussion and a step toward healing from the atrocities of the residential school system and the trauma sustained by First Nations in this community. As a health facility supporting the people of this community, we acknowledge that we have a lot of work left to do, however, we are confident in the collaborative relationships we are building with our community partners. The artwork hangs in our foyer as a symbolic reminder of the unbreakable bond between mother and child and the strength provided by the Wolf, Fireweed, Frog and Eagle clans of the Gitxsan people.

Verna Howard, Community Engagement Coordinator with the First Nations Health Authority, helped organize this event and said:

This event has made a big difference. It’s the first time we have seen our First Nations people and dancers involved in the hospital system. I could see on the elders’ faces the impact the cultural dance group and cultural recognition had, especially for those who reside there. The community members and residential school survivors, who have heard talk about reconciliation but have seen little action, saw this as a great step forward.

The event followed local Gitxsan protocols with Chief George Gray providing a formal welcome to the traditional Gitxsan territory and Elder Frances Sampson, opening the event with a prayer. Following the unveiling, there was a reception in the cafeteria where the Gitxsan Cultural dancers performed. Verna Howard and I spoke about the role of Aboriginal Health Improvement Committees and how Northern Health, First Nations Health Authority, and Indigenous communities and organizations are partnering to improve the health of Indigenous peoples in the north. Hereditary Chief Ray Jones, a residential school survivor, shared about the three constant companions in residential school: hunger, loneliness, and fear.

Cormac Hikisch, Health Services Administrator for the northwest area said,

I was grateful to be a part of this event – witnessing local residential school survivors share their stories and express appreciation for the button blanket as recognition of their suffering. It helped provide me with a better understanding of the real impacts to this tragic part of Canadian history, and more deeply realise the still current trauma that First Nations are working to move forward from.

This event was one step in Northern Health’s journey to honour and acknowledge local First Nations and making health care environments more culturally safe.

The women who created this blanket are Amanda Wesley, Theresa Stevens, Virginia Fowler, Rebecca Jagoda, Cindy Martin and Mae Martin with guidance from Marjorie Mowatt and Sadie Mowatt. Final touch-ups were provided by Lavender Macdonald.

Three women with button blankets.

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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Orange Shirt Day

Two women dressed in orange

Marking Orange Shirt Day in Kitsumkalum.

I was honoured to be invited to Kitsumkalum’s Orange Shirt Day by Charlene Webb, the community health director. Although I got to wear a beautiful locally designed orange shirt, enjoy yummy orange food, and visit with many people, this event has a sad undertone.

What is Orange Shirt Day?

September 29th is Orange Shirt Day – a day of remembrance and recognition of residential school survivors and those who did not survive.

It is a day each year to acknowledge the harm done by the residential school system to children’s self-esteem and well-being and to remember that every child matters. Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis’ story. In 1973, when she was 6 years old, Phyllis attended the Mission school. On her first day of school, her clothes (including a special, brand new, shiny orange shirt) were taken from her and replaced with a uniform. Orange Shirt Day is an annual opportunity to engage in a discussion on all aspects of the residential school system.

Residential schools

September is when children go back to school and it is therefore timely to remember the Indigenous children in Canada who were taken from their families and travelled long distances to attend residential schools. Instead of being nurtured and supported, many suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse there.

Residential schools are a dark part of Canadian history that make me very sad. As a 6th generation Canadian white woman with First Nations children, I have struggled with this part of Canada’s history. I first learned about residential schools when I was pregnant with my first child. I was devastated that such a thing could happen. As a parent, I cannot imagine a more heart wrenching and devastating experience than having my children forcibly removed and taken far away where I cannot protect them or care for them.

Woman wearing "Every Child Matters" shirt

Orange Shirt Day is a day each year to acknowledge the harm done by the residential school system to children’s self-esteem and well-being and to remember that every child matters.

Learning more

As hard as it is, we need to acknowledge that this tragedy occurred and learn more about it so that it never happens again. I encourage you to explore several resources:

Cultural humility

Part of healing from this difficult history in Canada involves all of us developing our cultural humility – our ability to be respectful, self-aware, and lifelong learners when it comes to the experiences of others.

I encourage you to join me and participate in the First Nations Health Authority social media campaign to engage all of us in advancing cultural safety and humility in the health system. In my daily life, I strive to do my part to help create an environment in Northern Health where people feel safe from racism and discrimination. Make a pledge today and share it on social media. Together we can make a difference.

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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Sharing of cultural practices in health care transitions

“I can’t emphasize how important it is for health care professionals to take the lead in asking these questions (about cultural practices), in peeling back the layers of assumptions, and finding out specifically how we can assist and make any transition smoother. Things will go better if those questions are asked right away and then I’ve always found when that happens, those questions are met with relief almost and answers are immediate” -Coco Miller, Kitselas, Tsimshian Nation

Young boy carrying drum

A young drummer at a video launch event in Kitselas.

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is pleased to launch two videos that share information for health care providers about the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan, and Nisga’a peoples’ cultural practices and how they impact their health care needs.

In 2014-2016, Aboriginal Health provided financial support for each of the eight AHICs in the north to develop local cultural resources. Development of these resources was guided by the question: “If I were a new health care provider in Northern Health, what you would want me to know?”

The Terrace/Kitimat and Area AHIC produced the following videos which focus on cultural practices for important life transitions:

These videos cover important topics relevant for life events that often take place in the health system including:

  • the importance of families gathering and being together,
  • the cultural roles of the family,
  • the diversity of practices among families and Nations,
  • how Northern Health staff can support families and their cultural practices, and
  • the importance of communication between the patient/family and care providers.

“I think it’s very important to have family there and friends to be around us to support us, pray for us. They are there to feed us. Especially for the young ones to be there to witness what we have to go through during the time of a death. It’s very important for them to know how we feel and see the experience.” -Roberta Grant, Haisla Nation

Group of six adults with gift bags.

Celebrating the launch of the AHIC videos in Kitselas.

“The Grandmother comes to visit and is in the delivery room also. She will take the baby and examine the baby to look for any recognizable birth marks on the baby because, in our belief, our family comes back through reincarnation. An aunt of the father also needs to be in the delivery room because we have her role to be to cut the umbilical cord because this signifies their role as the father clan. The child is no longer just belonging to the mother’s family (the maternal family) but the child also belongs to the paternal family.” -Verna Howard, Gitxsan/Wet’suwet’en Nation

I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch these videos and share them with others. The information contained in these videos is an amazing gift from the Tsimshian, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitxsan and Nisǥa’a peoples.

I hope the videos inspire all of us to continue collaborating and learning and that you find them helpful in your life and your work.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, I encourage you to contact Lloyd McDames, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Terrace.

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.

Find more work done by the AHICs from across the north in this booklet of local cultural resources.

 

Cultural practices around birth

Cultural practices around illness and death

Jonathan Cooper

About Jonathan Cooper

Jonathan Cooper is the Health Service Administrator for Kitimat. His role includes many aspects of health care responsibilities for acute, complex care and community services in Kitimat. Jonathan has been in this role approaching 8 years, during which time he has been actively participating in many health committees, including the Terrace, Kitimat & Region Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee. Jonathan immigrated to Canada from the United Kingdom where he worked for the National Health Service. Jonathan enjoys outdoor pursuits, cooking, reading, and spending time with his family and children.

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