Friday, October 29, 2010

Indigenous perspectives on health and well-being

        I was quite excited to write a blog about Indigenous perspectives, as I've been fascinated with the Aboriginal culture and way of life since an early age. I believe in our modern culture we tend to complicate things and forget about what is important and meaningful in our lives. Spending time with Aboriginals have given me another perspective on life. I had the opportunity in 2007 to do voluntary work with Aboriginals In Cross Lake and Berens River, and I had a great experience. I was welcomed and treated as a friend from the start. A lot of my time was spend with the youth and it did not take much time to feel close to them. I appreciated their more relaxed way of life and their respect and acceptance of others.

        In Turner & Turner (2009), “Studies undertaken over the last 30 years have shown time and time again that social and health indicators of Aboriginal peoples in Canada fall far below those of Canadians in mainstream society. First Nations people are admitted to hospital at more than twice the rate of the national population” (p. 95-96).  Health and well-being among Aboriginals are issues that should not be ignored.

        I read the article Indigenous health part 2: the underlying causes of the health gap, and found it to be very interesting and filled with lots of insightful Indigenous perspectives on health. According to the article, Indigenous people consider good health as being more than just physical health or the absence of disease, but also include the balance of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being of the person.The medicine wheel emphasizes balance in life and healing. Good health is believed to require individuals to live in harmony with others, their communities, and their spirituality. Their connections with others and family members are very important components to their well-being. Their definition of illness refers to an absence of balance and well-being.  .

        As stated in Gracey, King, and Smith (2009), “Indigenous health is widely understood to also be affected by a range of cultural factors, including racism, along with various indigenous-specific factors, such as loss of language and connection to the land, environmental deprivation, and spiritual, emotional, and mental disconnectedness.” Loss of identity is identified as being predictions of negative health outcomes. The article describes that Indigenous practitioners generally emphasize reduction of alienation and importance of positive cultural experiences for Aboriginals. Traditional teachings and knowledge are seen as providing a basis for positive self-image and identity of self.  As discussed in The Family Dynamic, it became impossible for Aboriginal peoples to follow their traditions when the reserve system was established.  Since learning more about Aboriginal history in class, I believe, the reserves along with the residential schools, were and continue to be the major influences on Aboriginal health, since they striped the Aboriginal people from their culture, and thus their well-being.

        I found it very interesting how Aboriginals emphasize the importance of others for their well-being, mental, spiritual, and physical health. I think there is a lot of truth in their beliefs on how our interactions with others affect our well-being. I know for me when I feel I am in harmony with those around me, especially those close to me, I have a more positive outlook on life, I have more energy, and I do feel generally happier. I believe Aboriginal perspectives on health can be a challenge, since from what I perceive, our modern society doesn't encourage spirituality, and the involvement of others in our lives for our well-being.  We seem to now focus a lot on being as independent as possible.  Oftentimes, it seems depending on others is seen as a human weakness.  However, I believe Aboriginal perspectives on Health and well-being is an encouragement to value that which is most precious and close to us, as our people, culture, and beliefs affect who we are and our well-being.

Gracey, M., King, M., & Smith, A. (2009). Indigenous health part 2: the underlying causes of the health gap. Vol 374, Iss 9683, 76-85. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60827-8

Turner, J.C., & Turner, F.J. (2009) Canadian Social Welfare (6th ed.) Aboriginal People in Canada. Toronto, ON: Pearson Canada.

Ward, M. (2006). The Family Dynamic: A Canadian Perspective (Fourth ed.). Thomson, Canada: Thomas Nelson. p. 93.

Sarah H


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I also found it difficult to find an article regarding this topic. I really enjoyed your post thought.

    I found it a good reminder to remember that good health does not only mean physical but as well as mentally, emotionally and our spiritual well-being.

    I also found it interesting that you have some background working with some aboriginals. What is it that you did? if you don't mind sharing with me.

    Overall I think you did a really good job. I found it enlightening.

    Dana W

  3. Hi Dana,
    Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed reading your post as well. The work you've done with Aboriginals sounds really neat!

    My experience with Aboriginals was shared with 10 other teens from around Canada. We went up North to facilitate camps and activities for the youth, which included sports, games, music, skits, crafts, talks and sharings. It was so much fun and I got to learn a lot from the youth about their culture and ways of life. I would definitely like to go again!

    I also did some volunteering at the youth prison in Winnipeg, which was another good experience. I saw in the youth a deep longing for acceptance and love. They've gone through so much by such a young age.

    Spending time with Aboriginals gave me the desire to be a social worker. They amaze me and I've learnt so much from them. They have so much to offer.

    Sarah H

  4. I really enjoyed this post Sarah. I agree with you about how beautiful the Aboriginal culture is, as my uncle is Aboriginal and is very devoted to his culture.

    It is a good learning lesson for many other people to notice that the well being of oneself is greatly affected by other people around you. I also find it amazing how connected the culture is to the spirits, land, and the stories around them. Being positive and connected to your culture is a way to feel good about yourself, and to improve your health.

    You mentioned it was hard to find an article about Aboriginals and healthcare. It is unfortunate that this indigenous people aren't as recognized as other groups in Canada. I would think since they are such a big part of Canada there would be more.

    -Jessica VL

  5. That sounds like it must have been a very interesting experience for you Sarah. It's great that someone like you is interested in working with Aboriginal people, especially Aboriginal youth. You really sound like you appreciate their culture and value them as people. We need more people like you in this line of work!
    Crystal M

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  7. Your post was very enjoyable to read, great job!

    I most definately agree with you, that the health and well-being among Aboriginals should not be ignored. I found it very interesting to read that the indigenous people consider good health or the absense of a disease, but also include the balance of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being of a person. This is something to definately keep in mind.

    Ashley R.

  8. The First Nations' ideologies are fascinating and it is such a shame that they were ever threatened. I love how they choose not to seperate things but rather view everything as flowing, circular and as one. Art, life, and religion are all seen as one thing as well as the mind, body, and spirit are seen as one. Life flows in balance and they take the world as it is, without need for domination. This holistic approach to life makes sense to me and maybe the medical field should incorporate these views of which the First Nations have successfully used for years.

    Jessica Neufeld