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.

Share

Reflecting the communities we serve: Northern Health’s Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative

An Aboriginal Self-ID graphic is shown. It says, "A workplace that supports the community supports a culturally safe health care system for everyone!"

A culturally safe health care system is a top priority for Northern Health.

Making sure that the health care system is culturally safe for Indigenous Peoples is one of Northern Health’s (NH) top priorities.

What is cultural safety?

The goal of cultural safety is for all people to feel respected and safe when they interact with the health care system.

Culturally safe health care services are free of racism and discrimination. Cultural Safety means that people have support to draw strengths from their identity, culture, and community.

What is the Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative?

One of the ways that NH is working to make the health care system more culturally safe is through our Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative, which asks NH employees to identify as Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal. The goal of the initiative, which first began in 2016, is to see if the NH workforce is representative of the people that we serve.

To achieve this goal, we need an ongoing understanding of what our workforce looks like. This will help us make informed decisions, to remove any barriers that may exist, and to promote inclusion. It also helps us set realistic goals around recruiting and retaining Indigenous professionals.

The Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative and Truth and Reconciliation

Northern Health’s Aboriginal Self-ID initiative aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The TRC is a part of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement and its mandate was to inform all Canadians about the truth of what happened in residential schools. In 2017, the TRC released ninety-four Calls to Action, seven of which are specifically related to the field of health care.

These seven recommendations range from addressing gaps in health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians to bringing change within the health care system. Two sub-recommendations address all levels of government, pointing out the need to:

  1. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in health-care.
  2. Ensure retention of Aboriginal health care providers in and serving Aboriginal communities.

This work is guided by the Northern Partnership Accord, which was signed in May 2012 between NH, Northern First Nations, and the First Nations Health Authority. One of the main purposes of this agreement is to involve First Nations leadership in the planning, delivery, and monitoring of health services that impact First Nations peoples and communities in the Northern region.

Where do staff self-ID?

Completing the Self-ID form is simple and staff can complete it in five short steps:

  1. Log into i-Site
  2. Navigate to the left-hand menu and click “Request/Change My Information”
  3. Select “Change Aboriginal Identity”
  4. Choose between: “Aboriginal”, “Non-Aboriginal”, or “No Response” from the drop-down menu
  5. You’re done! Go grab a coffee!

Is asking someone to self-ID discriminatory?

Sometimes people wonder if being asked to self-ID is a discriminatory act.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it’s not a discriminatory practice to collect information if it’s intended to be used to eliminate discrimination of certain groups of individuals.

NH understands that the act of identifying can be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. The Aboriginal Self-ID Initiative is voluntary and your status can be changed at any time. Self-identifying will not affect employment with NH.

Learn more:

If you have any questions or concerns about the Aboriginal Self-ID initiative, please reach out to the Indigenous Health, Northern Health team at: Indigneous.Health@northernhealth.ca

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

NH staff member defends PhD thesis on First Nations identity, wins award

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat, and holding her degree.

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat.

In December 2018, we featured a story on Prince George resident and Northern Health staff member Jessie King presenting her Ph.D. thesis at an international conference in Ontario. Jessie has now successfully defended that thesis, gaining her doctorate in Health Sciences from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

“When my supervisor told me my thesis defense was successful, I just started crying and shaking because it’s been eight years,” says Jessie. “It was such a personal process.”

Jessie was also awarded the Pounamu Taonga Award, which recognizes an Aboriginal student who is graduating from UNBC for their academic achievements, university service, and community involvement.

Jessie, who works in Northern Health’s Indigenous Health department as the Lead, Research and Community Engagement, titled her thesis “Niit nüüyu gwa’a: Decolonizing and Deconstructing First Nations Identity.”

The first part of the title is Sm’algyax (a dialect of the Tsimsham language) for “This is who I am.” She chose this title to acknowledge the intensive 10-year exploration of her identity and to honour her maternal ties to Gitxaala and the Tsimshian Nation.

Some of the questions that her thesis examined include:

  • Does how you disclose your identity change based on different situations and your perceived level of safety?
  • What are the implications of status on your identity?

“I had such a fantastic supervisory committee,” says Jessie, who hopes to publish her dissertation.

Her next adventure will include post-doctoral activities and teaching a course on research methods and design for the First Nations Studies department of UNBC.

“It will be nice to get my foot back in the teaching door,” she says.

For now, she’s enjoying plenty of well-deserved quality time with her family.

Congratulations to Jessie on her many achievements!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

Share

Fun and learning at the first Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp

Campers and an adult circle a simulation dummy, feeling its chest.

Campers visit the simulation lab at the University Hospital of Northern BC.

This summer, 18 Indigenous students from urban and rural Northern BC communities traveled to the University of Northern BC (UNBC) to participate in the first ever Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp.

The purpose of the camp was to introduce Indigenous youth entering grades five to eight to the post-secondary environment, and inspire them to learn about and pursue health- and science-related careers in the North.

Organized by the Health Arts Research Centre (HARC) with help from several sponsors, including Northern Health (NH) and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the camp was the first of its kind in Northern BC.

The weeklong, sleep-away camp featured a different theme each day, with all of the themes centred on Indigenous and Western science and health.

Students got the unique opportunity to “bunk” overnight in UNBC’s Keyoh Student Residence and enjoy meals at the Agora Dining Hall, making this group of future post-secondary students seasoned pros before they’ve even applied!

The camp began with an opening ceremony, including a traditional welcome to Lheidli T’enneh territory from Elder Darlene McIntosh and drummer Kyle Sam.

Throughout the week, campers learned about a range of topics including:

  • Wildlife and fish
  • Land and water
  • Health and genetics
  • Biology
  • Art

Campers also got to speak with an Environmental Health Officer, prepared traditional foods, learned to identify medicinal plants, and learned about Canada’s Food Guide.

Five children examine bins at Exploration Place's Nature Exchange.

Campers learn about wildlife at the Exploration Place.

Of course, no summer camp is complete without a field trip (or two)! Campers had the chance to learn about astronomy and cosmology at the Exploration Place, where they were able to create beautiful leather pouches, rattles, and cedar roses.

Campers impressed instructors and counsellors with their technological knowledge, and learned about coding and creating websites and apps. Afterwards, the students traveled to the Two Rivers Gallery Maker Lab where they participated in a stop-motion animation workshop – check out the amazing videos that the campers created.

Dr. Jessie King, Hadiksm Gaax, Lead, Research & Community Engagement, Indigenous Health, Northern Health, was on site for most of the week helping facilitate activities and was thrilled to watch how fast campers became friends!

“It was amazing to see the youth building friendships with each other and the camp leaders while experiencing so many fascinating activities. My favourite part of the week was watching the students exchange contact information in the last couple of days so their friendships could go beyond the camp experience! It made me wonder how many would come together at UNBC in five to eight years.”

The week of fun and learning ended with a Grand Finale on Friday, where campers created vision boards for their own futures before attending a Mentorship Fair in the afternoon.

Several campers hold a mixing bowl while another camper tosses the food with tongs.

Campers learn how to prepare traditional foods.

The Mentorship Fair included interactive tables from the Exploration Place, College of New Caledonia, UNBC Aboriginal Recruitment and Support Services, FNHA Environmental Health Team, Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) West, and the ECHO Network.

After the fair, campers attended a closing ceremony that included panel talks from inspiring Indigenous guest speakers who shared personal stories, experiences, career paths, and encouragement.

“Reflecting on the experience of going to university, Dr. Sarah de Leeuw and I thought about how frightening and unattainable university can seem for some,” says Dr. King. “For many students, being able to see yourself in a university environment is a powerful experience… if you walk the halls and spend time in the classrooms, it doesn’t take much to begin seeing yourself there one day.”

The success of the first Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp is evident in the relationships made, fun had, and pictures captured. Plans are already in motion to continue the camp into 2020 and beyond!

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.

Share

Fort Nelson HIV Awareness Week: using language to break down barriers

A table of HIV Awareness materials is pictured.

The table of materials at Fort Nelson’s HIV Awareness Week helps educate attendees.

Language is a powerful thing. It connects to who we are and how we see ourselves. So, when someone takes the time to reach out in your own language — instead of expecting you to understand theirs — it makes a difference.

For the past five years, the community of Fort Nelson has held an HIV Awareness Week. For the most recent one, held the week of April 29, 2019, they decided to mark the occasion by doing something special for the Indigenous members of their community.

Working together with the Fort Nelson Aboriginal Friendship Society, they translated their yearly presentation on HIV into Dené, the most prominent Indigenous language in the area.

“We had one or two Elders who teared up,” said Jennifer Riggs, Regulated Pharmacy Technician and the key organizer for the event. “They were so happy that we took the time — I don’t think it mattered what the conversation was about — but they were so happy that we did it in their language. They really appreciated that we made an effort.”

Fort Nelson, located in Northeastern BC, has a large Indigenous population: roughly 14% of the population identify as Indigenous.

“This event is important in Northern BC, especially in our very isolated towns,” says Jennifer. “Indigenous people have a higher prevalence of HIV … and they aren’t getting that information. We’re trying to bring people up to date.”

This lack of information was the reason Jennifer and her team put in the time and effort to translate the presentation. She wants to ensure that they aren’t left out of the conversation. She hopes to do even more next year by translating the presentation into another Indigenous language.

HIV isn’t something that people usually get excited about, but for Fort Nelson, the event has become something to look forward to. Jennifer estimates that attendance has quadrupled since the initial event five years ago. She hopes that with continued outreach to the Indigenous communities in the area, attendance will continue to grow.

“So many people attend and we’ve come full circle, from where people weren’t talking about sex, to now having condom races at the fire department! It’s becoming normal conversation.”

For Jennifer, this is what it’s all about: to make conversations about topics such as HIV, sex, sexual orientation, and addiction less painful for people to talk about, and to make them part of everyday conversation.

“I want it to be a regular thing. I want continual education and training available all the time. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

Share

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.

Share

One year later: the journey to create the UHNBC welcome sign and beyond

A picture of the welcome sign, which reads, "We welcome you to our traditional territory." The Lheidli T'enneh logo is in the bottom right. The image is of faceless-yet-friendly people, painted with bright, vibrant colours.

The Welcome Sign, first unveiled at UHNBC, recognizes and acknowledges that the hospital is on the traditional land of the Lheidli T’enneh, and welcomes people to it.

The winter of 2018 saw the unveiling of a special work of art that acknowledges the traditional territory of Lheidli T’enneh and welcomes Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC).

The vision for a welcome sign/art installation for UHNBC was born in 2015. UHNBC is located on Indian Reservation #1 (IR#1) and on the territory of the Lheidli T’enneh. So, it was decided that the sign should be an acknowledgement and welcoming to the Lheidli T’enneh territory, and that the sign would be in Carrier (the traditional language of the Lheidli T’enneh).

To begin this project, the PG and Area Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) created a sub-committee to lead and guide the project. With guidance from Lheidli T’enneh chief and council, the sub-committee began planning the steps to create an art installation that would be placed prominently in the hospital.

After a call for Indigenous artists was issued, Carla Joseph, a Métis artist, born in Prince George, with Cree roots in Green Lake, Saskatchewan, was selected to create the sign. Carla created the design with Darlene McIntosh and Mary Gouchie, two Lheidli T’enneh Elders.

“Painting the sign was a great opportunity for me,” says Carla. “I wanted to do a piece that represented community and family. [The people on the sign] have no faces to show that it can be anybody. Making time for each other is so very important. Being an artist, I know art can be healing and inspirational.”

The sign is intended to recognize and acknowledge Indigenous peoples in health care facilities and to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh. It’s also an opportunity to offer a learning experience to non-Indigenous peoples entering the hospital.

The welcome sign was officially unveiled on February 23, 2018.

Over a year later, the sign has had a tremendous impact on patients and health care providers alike. Shortly after the unveiling, the PG and Area AHIC voted to purchase additional signs to be distributed in health care facilities across the city.

For patients who access multiple health care facilities in Prince George, the signs acknowledge Lheidli T’enneh territory, provide continuity, and prioritize cultural safety.

Here are some of the locations where you can find a welcome sign, along with community members’ thoughts about the impact they’ve had on each facility:

Positive Living North

“When I go to a location that has one of the welcome signs, I immediately feel more comfortable walking in as a stranger to provide presentations.” – Kyla Turner

The Welcome Sign hangs on a white wall that also features Northern BC locations written in an inter-linking pattern.

The Welcome Sign hangs at the BC Cancer Centre for the North.

BC Cancer Prince George Centre for the North

“The welcome sign helps to set the tone when you walk into the facility and shows that cultural safety is a priority. The sign also provides a sense of continuity of care as BC Cancer Centre is linked to the University Hospital of Northern BC, where the larger presentation of this artwork originates.” – Carolyn Jacob, practice leader, patient and family counselling, and Laura Nordin, Indigenous cancer care counsellor.

Aboriginal Housing Society

“The sign is a symbol of our relationship, acknowledging Lheidli T’enneh traditional territory, and that we are thankful as visitors that we can live in and do our work on Lheidli T’enneh territory.” – Christos Vardacostas

Two women are posing with the Welcome Sign.

Erin Anderlini and Maria Rossi pose with the welcome sign at Prince George Native Friendship Centre.

Prince George Native Friendship Centre

“This sign is very meaningful to us, as it represents our working relationship with Lheidli T’enneh, which, for me, has been fostered by being part of the AHIC.” – Erin Anderini

PG Divisions of Family Practice & Blue Pine Primary Health Care Clinic

“We have had many comments on how beautiful the ‘Welcome’ picture is. When I think of the meaning it brings to our clinic, the theme of beauty comes to mind. We are fortunate to walk on the land of the Lheidli T’enneh. The welcome is a reminder to be mindful and respectful of the people and land of this territory.” – Submitted as a group quote.

Foundry Prince George

“The sign speaks to the importance of holding, in the work that we do, the history of this community and honoring territory. It brings forward agendas that bring healing. There is also a continuity from the bigger sign in the hospital – and people recognize that.” – Toni Carlton

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.

Share