Indigenous Success Stories: First Nations

June 24, 2024

First Nations

Edith Anderson Monture of Six Nations was a woman of several firsts

1st First Nations nurse in Canada was also 1st Indigenous woman to vote in a federal election

A woman stands at a podium covered by a blanket holding a microphone in front of a flag.
Helen Moses spoke during opening ceremonies of Edith Monture Elementary School — named after her mom — in Brantford, ON, in June 2022 (Submitted by John Moses)

CBC Indigenous: Edith Anderson Monture was an ambitious and determined Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) woman from Six Nations of the Grand River who made history in several ways.

Born on April 10, 1890, in Six Nations, Monture was the first First Nations woman in Canada to become a nurse, the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the U.S. military, and the first Indigenous woman to vote in a federal election. 

Where Métis have always had the same legal rights to vote as non-Indigenous people, First Nations people with Indian status and Inuit were barred from voting in federal elections until the mid-20th century. A First Nations person could vote if they surrendered their Indian status under the Indian Act, or “enfranchised,” a process aimed at assimilation.

First Nations people got the right to vote without relinquishing their Indian status in 1960. Inuit got the right to vote in 1950 but had little access to election services. Polling stations were not in all Inuit communities until 1962.

But the Military Voters Act of 1917 allowed people on active service in the military of Canada or an ally, including women and people with Indian status, the right to vote in the 1917 federal election. As a wartime nurse, Monture became one of the first women, and the first Indigenous woman, to vote in a federal election.

Went to U.S. for school

Monture had to leave the country to get her nursing education.

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“There were not any nursing schools that she applied to that would take her because she was Native,” said Helen Moses, Monture’s daughter.

“She saw in the Brantford paper that they were advertising for student nurses in New Rochelle, N.Y., so she applied and she was accepted and that’s where she trained.”

Monture took the leap of faith and went to the school in New York state, completing her degree in 1914.

In 1917, the United States entered the First World War and Monture left her job as a public health nurse to volunteer with the American Expeditionary Force. She spent over a year based in Vittel, France, where she treated soldiers wounded by mustard gas and artillery.

“They weren’t right on the front lines… the wounded would be brought in by train,” Moses said.

“The patients that had been gassed, some of them were able to survive, but some of them did not.”

Vintage photo of a Kanien’kehá:ka woman in an army uniform
Edith Anderson Monture was born and raised at Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. She went to the U.S. for her nursing education and when the U.S. entered the First World War, she volunteered as a wartime nurse.(Submitted by Moses family)

Moses said her mother eventually returned to Six Nations, where she got married and raised a family.

“It wasn’t the end of her career, but you know, at that time, mothers stayed home more often than they do now,” she said.

Monture died in 1996, at the age of 105.

Despite her mother’s many firsts, Moses said she remembers her most as a mom.

“I’m sure she was the only one that I ever heard had done so much … I just didn’t think much about it one way or the other, she was just our mom and that was it,” she said.

She added that her mother’s accomplishments inspired her to become a nurse herself.

“I’m sure she was my inspiration to go into nursing. There was never any question when I was through high school what I was going to do,” she said.

“She was my mom.”


Edzi’u Loverin, Journalist

Edzi’u Loverin is a registered member of the Tahltan Nation, and a member of the Taku River Tlingit. They are part of the CBC News Indigenous Pathways program. Edzi’u is based out of Vancouver on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh). You can email Edzi’u at with story ideas.


August 30, 2023

First Nations

Unexpected bond forms on run for diabetes awareness in Manitoba

71-year-old marathoner joins mom’s trek from Tataskweyak Cree Nation to Winnipeg

Tamara takes a selfie with other runners and walkers next to her car decorated for the awareness run.
After he daughter’s diabetes diagnosis 11 years ago, Tamara Beardy (left) said she was lost trying to figure out what to do. So now, she’s doing a run through Manitoba to raise awareness of diabetes in Indigenous communities. (Submitted by Tamara Beardy)

CBC News: When Tamara Beardy’s daughter Kenya was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 9, the “scary” diagnosis left her scrambling for information about the disease.  “I thought I was gonna lose my daughter. I didn’t fully know what the diagnosis meant,” said Beardy, who is a member of Tataskweyak Cree Nation. 

The family was living in Thompson, Man., and Beardy said she found it hard to access support in the northern town. “Because I couldn’t find resources, I had to make a decision to relocate my whole family to Winnipeg to go educate myself.”

Beardy said she’s grateful they made the move. More than a decade later, Kenya is doing well and has a daughter of her own.  Now Beardy and her family are running 900 kilometres from Tataskweyak Cree Nation (Split Lake), about 100 kilometres east of Thompson, to Winnipeg to raise awareness about diabetes and try to help others. 

Along the way they picked up a companion eager to share the burden.

Nelson Beardy, 71 — no relation — heard Tamara doing an interview on the radio and decided to join her run in Thompson. 

“It’s such a blessing to us, ’cause he helps get the wood, he helps hold things… and most importantly running and walking with me every day,” she said.

Nelson picks a wildflower on the side of the road
Nelson Beardy, a 71-year-old marathon runner from York Factory First Nation, surprised Tamara Beardy after he told her he would join her run for diabetes all the way to Winnipeg. (Submitted by Tamara Beardy)

They walk and run anywhere from six to 12 hours each day and always start and end the day together, she said. During the two weeks they’ve been running together, they’ve enjoyed finding out the things they have in common.  “We’re both Cree. We love to jig. We have a love for running; we love humour,” Tamara said.

She calls Nelson a “godsend” and Nelson’s come up with a nickname for her, Maran, because she’s “a ma and she runs.” 

Nelson, a member of York Factory First Nation, said running is a way of life for him and although Tamara’s run is long, it’s easier than his usual treks through the wilderness. “I get more support from people along the way that give us Gatorade, water and all that,” Nelson said. 

Tamara and another person run away from the camera holding a flag promoting diabetes awareness.
Several family members and friends have joined in on Tamara’s run to raise awareness of diabetes. (Submitted by Tamara Beardy)

As for running nearly 800 kilometres at 71, “it’s all a state of mind,” he said. “I don’t even think about my age. I don’t even think about the kilometres I’m gonna do. I think about the good things in life. I think I’m young.” 

Running with a purpose 

Tamara left Tataskweyak on Aug. 13 and plans to arrive in Winnipeg by Sept. 2. Along the way she hopes to inspire others to take up walking and running, and she is trying to raise $1,500 to create a walking path in Tataskweyak.

In Winnipeg, Tamara became a nursing assistant. She now works with the University of Manitoba as a research co-ordinator, looking at diabetes prevention in youth.  “I’m just very blessed and honoured to be doing that work and to be working for my own people,” she said.

About 17 per cent of First Nations people living on-reserve have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes while about 5 per cent of non-Indigenous people do, according to a 2011 report from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Tamara knows about its prevalence first-hand — multiple family members have diabetes and her cousin died about six months ago after being on dialysis due to his diabetes — but said some people still struggle to access proper information. 

Nelson and Tamara stand in front of a sunset holding a sign promoting their run for diabetes awareness.
Nelson Beardy joined the run in Thompson, Man., and promised Tamara Beardy he’d run with her all the way to Winnipeg. (Submitted by Tamara Beardy)

Through this run, she said she hopes people learn “to feel important” and manage their diabetes better. “A lot of times, our First Nations people, they hide behind the disease or they hide it and complications arise faster than they need to,” she said.

But encouraging communities to be proactive is just part of the solution. 

“Our systems are failing us. There was a lack of resources when my daughter was diagnosed at nine and that was 11 years ago. How much have we improved? I don’t think we’ve improved that much,” she said, adding she would like to see an endocrinologist based in Thompson. 

She also said it would be nice to see better education on healthy eating, but even more importantly, more affordable healthy foods in northern communities. 


Samantha Schwientek

Samantha Schwientek is a reporter with CBC Indigenous based in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton). She is a member of the Cayuga nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and previously worked at CBC Nova Scotia. 

March 9, 2023

First Nations

Dr. Kona Williams is forging a path for First Nations women in forensic pathology

‘It’s a privilege to know somebody in death’

Dr. Kona Williams is a forensic pathologist based in Sudbury, Ont. (Markus Schwabe/CBC) to know somebody in death’

CBC News: Being the only First Nations forensic pathologist in Canada can be isolating and brings with it a lot of responsibility but Dr. Kona Williams views it as a privilege to get to know somebody in death. “You actually get to see this person in death in a way that nobody else can,” said Williams, speaking from her home in Sudbury, Ont.

The Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Cree doctor currently serves as medical director of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Health Sciences North (HSN), a regional hospital in Sudbury serving northeastern Ontario. Her leadership is viewed as trailblazing by many but her journey into forensic pathology hasn’t been a walk in the park.

Being in a male-dominated profession on top of being the only First Nations person working in the field in Canada, she’s dealt with racism, stereotypes and discrimination throughout her 14 years of post-secondary education, and while working across Ontario.

“Medicine, there’s still a lot of systemic racism. That is a huge barrier,” she said. “I’ve gotten horrible things like, ‘I hope you end up missing and murdered.'”

Forensic pathology is a subspecialty of pathology, specializing in the examination of people who die suddenly, unexpectedly or violently to determine cause and manner of death. It’s a career Williams never thought about until meeting University of Ottawa professor Dr. Mary Senterman, one of her mentors in medical school. 

Williams graduated from medical school in 2009 and completed her residency training in anatomical pathology at the University of Ottawa in 2014. A year later, she completed a fellowship in forensic pathology at the University of Toronto.

Kona, seen here at two years old
Kona, seen here at two years old. (Submitted by Kona Williams)

She worked for the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service (OFPS) in Toronto until taking up most recent role in Sudbury in 2018. “Indigenous women in medicine bring a quality and gift that changes lives,” said Deanna Jones-Keeshig, director of Indigenous Health at HSN.

“Dr. Kona Williams amplifies this in her leadership and her determination to create a path forward that respects the continuity of life. Her connection to spirit, heart, mind as well as ways of being and doing has allowed her to share her knowledge to uplift and empower Indigenous communities.”

Dr. Kona Williams says she experienced racism and discrimination in medical school.
Dr. Kona Williams says she experienced racism and discrimination in medical school. (Submitted by Dr. Kona Williams)

Dr. Jayantha Herath, deputy chief forensic pathologist at the OFPS, said Williams’s work provides a strong link between the OFPS and the communities she serves. “Kona provides a valuable cultural perspective and knowledge to the Ontario death investigation system,” said Herath.

“Kona’s experience and insight have led her to work on high-profile and complex issues in Thunder Bay and Northwest Ontario, including residential schools, the Broken Trust reinvestigations, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

After nine years at uOttawa, Dr. Kona Williams did a one-year fellowship in forensic pathology at the University of Toronto, studying with Dr. Michael Pollanen, chief forensic pathologist for Ontario. She is pictured here, to the left, with other fellowship students.
After studying at uOttawa, Dr. Kona Williams did a one-year fellowship in forensic pathology at the University of Toronto, studying with Dr. Michael Pollanen, chief forensic pathologist for Ontario. She is pictured here, to the left, with other fellowship students. (Submitted by Kona Williams)

Many of the cases that land on Williams’s desk now are from First Nations communities. She described it as seeing the consequences of the disparities of health in the North, coupled with disparities of social-economic issues with Indigenous people.

“We get a lot of marginalized people who live on the fringes and die because of their addictions, mental health,” said Williams. “You get to see that in a way that a lot of other people can’t. Every case, every person I meet who is dead, I learn something from, and I hope that continues for the rest of my life.”

Lending expertise to missing children, unmarked burials committee

On top of her day job, in July, Williams was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials, which is funded through Crown-Indigenous Relations, joining other independent experts on archaeology, archival research, Indigenous laws, criminal investigations, as well as residential school survivors.

“In whatever capacity I can bring, if not answers about how people died, at least closure or some peace to people,” said Williams.

Although it’s a big responsibility, Williams said it’s a much bigger honour. Her father Gordon Williams, who died in 2019, was forced to attend Birtle Indian Residential School, northwest of Brandon, Man., and her mother Karen Jacobs-Williams attended federal Indian day school in Kahnawà:ke, south of Montreal.

Kona Williams' father Gordon Williams was a member of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba.
Kona Williams’ father Gordon Williams was a member of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. (Submitted by Kona Williams)

As for combating racism, she hopes as the number of Indigenous people working in medicine grows, the easier it will be to bear.  “It won’t happen in my lifetime where this goes away,” she said.  “But at some point, it won’t be something difficult that people have to face and they can just focus on studying and being a really good doctor.”


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer, Journalist

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawà:ke, south of Montreal. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.

September 25, 2022

First Nations

In photos: Indigenous Health Learning Lodge welcome gathering celebrates a transformative new space

Interpretive dance performances, organized by JP Longboat of Circadia Indigena, started with the Jingle dress dance. (All photos by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University).

McMaster University Daily News: In advance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, a welcome gathering was held at the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge (IHLL), also known as Tsi nón:we ayakonniyóhake táhnon aonsayakota’karitehake (The place of good life and return to health) and Mino Bimaadiziwin Mishkiki Aapjishnik Gamik (The good life; medicine recovery healing lodge).

Speaking about the Indigenous Health Learning at the welcome gathering on Friday evening, McMaster Chancellor Santee Smith recognized the inspiring work of Bernice Downey, associate dean, Indigenous Health, in the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the IHLL team. They have built a transformative space where everyone is invited and welcome.

Downey expressed how meaningful the welcome gathering is, as a coming together and a “high point in the relationships that have been established, both within the faculty and across the university, a celebration of our Indigenous ways of knowing, our culture, our ceremony, our songs.”

On the momentous evening in L.R. Wilson Hall, IHLL’s Executive Director, Lori Davis Hill, spoke about the pathway to the Indigenous Health Learning Lodge, which is dedicated to Indigenous education and curriculum, student support and services, and an Indigenous way of knowing that fosters an ongoing collaborative relationship with Go di we na wa she/Shkaabewis – Knowledge Helpers and their networks.

The Lodge is also focused on enhancing awareness and cultural safety skills for non-Indigenous learners, faculty, staff and community members.

Below are photo highlights of the welcome gathering that took place in L.R. Wilson Hall:

August 21, 2022

First Nations

Dr. Alika Fontaine, first Indigenous President of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)

NationTalk: Today, Canadian Medical Association (CMA) members and delegates attending the Annual general meeting welcomed Dr. Alika Lafontaine as the organization’s 155th President. Dr. Lafontaine becomes the first indigenous President in the organization’s history. Born and raised in Treaty 4 Territory (Southern Saskatchewan), Dr. Lafontaine has Metis, Oji-Cree and Pacific Islander ancestry.

As an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Dr. Lafontaine has been using his voice to create spaces where Indigenous communities can partner with physicians, politicians and policy-makers to improve Indigenous health care. Committed to eliminating the gap in the quality of care between Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients across Canada, Dr. Lafontaine drafted and co-led a national strategy with territorial organizations representing 150 First Nations and several national health organizations. That proposal was then submitted to the federal government on behalf of those First Nations — the Indigenous Health Alliance — to advance health care transformation.

“As I take on the role of CMA president, I want my fellow physicians to know that I see their struggles and I am deeply committed to making progress toward a better future,” says Dr. Lafontaine. “Together we will rewrite the narrative of what it means to be a physician, how to better partner with patients and team-based care. We will build a future for healthcare in Canada.”

In addition to his advocacy work, Dr. Lafontaine is a seasoned advisor who has served in medical leadership positions for almost two decades, including at the Alberta Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, HealthCareCAN and the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada.

Feb. 27, 2021: Toronto Star – Dr. Alika Fontaine from Treaty 4 territory in southern Saskatchewan is the new President of the Canadian Medical Association. The CMA unites the medical profession in Canada to improve the health of Canadians and strengthen the health care system. Lafontaine co-led the Indigenous Health Alliance from 2013 to 2017, a “health transformation project” involving 150 First Nations and several national health organizations.
Once Lafontaine’s nomination is ratified at the August meeting, he will officially become president-elect.
His presidency is set to begin in August 2022.

May 4, 2022

Researchers at USask providing Indigenous leadership in $5M grant for national heart failure research network

University of Saskatchewan: Dr. Alexandra King, Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health and Wellness in the College of Medicine, and Professor Malcolm King, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology and the scientific director of the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research, are part of a Government of Canada-funded network of 100 researchers from across Canada, led by Dr. Jean-Lucien Rouleau of the Montreal Heart Institute. The funded research, called the Canadian Heart Failure Transformation Alliance (CHF Alliance), will strive to halt the progression of HF and understand the mechanisms involved in improving the lives of Canadians at all ages living with HF and other heart conditions.

“We are thrilled to be providing leadership nationally. We have a team that combines rich and diverse Indigenous research expertise and patient-oriented research expertise, especially that involving Indigenous people with lived and living experience,” said Dr. King.

The Kings, working with Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Holders, will develop Indigenous-led approaches to improving the diagnosis and care of HF in Indigenous people. Using etuaptmumk (Two-eyed Seeing), they will interweave Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing with Western science, working with Indigenous peoples to improve prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of HF. 

“Our vision is to find the harmonies between the Indigenous and Western approaches to create sustainable, community based, culturally safe and responsive approaches to HF services,” said Prof. King.

The Canadian Heart Failure Transformation Alliance spans eight provinces and one territory, and involves 12 patient/caregiver partners, 13 Indigenous partners, and 132 investigators (42 per cent women; 24 early-career investigators). Six university-based research hubs will form the backbone of the Canadian Heart Failure Transformation Alliance, and at USask, which is one hub, the Kings will lead this critical research.

February 17, 2022

Our Health Counts: Dr Janet Smilie

The “Our Health Counts” project will contribute to the priority area of Applying the “Two-Eyed Seeing” Model in Aboriginal Health, specifically utilizing “Two-Eyed Seeing” in assessing and improving the health of urban Aboriginal people. The study design provides an opportunity to address the broad gaps in urban Aboriginal health assessment across health domains and lifecycle stages with a focus on a key health care utilization indicator (ER use)

Our over-all goal is to improve urban Aboriginal health data by documenting many aspects of people’s health and well-being – as a baseline. At all stages of this project many and diverse partners work collaboratively to make health services effective, relevant and efficient for urban Aboriginal peoples. To date, the urban centres included in this project are Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto, London, and Kenora. An urban Indigenous health information, knowledge, and evaluation (HIKE) network has formed. The HIKE network includes influential representatives from each urban community and members of the research team to share ideas, findings, tools, and resources.

November 24, 2021

Dr. Moneca Sinclaire, University of Manitoba. Mitac award

University of Manitoba UM Today – Dr. Moneca Sinclaire, a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and a researcher in the department of environment and geography at UM, helped develop a unique mobile app that empowers Indigenous communities to survey their populations about key health and social issues. For this work she is being honoured with the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—Indigenous, which is given by Mitacs, a non-profit national innovation organization that works with academic institutions.

The app was originally created to help communities address COVID-19 and has since grown to cover other pressing social concerns.
“Due to past historical events, many of the chiefs and council members have questions about who’s going to own the data and what’s going to be done with it,” Sinclaire [B.H.ECOL/89, MSc/97] says. “A big part of our role is to assure them that we’re trying to do research differently, not from the same Western perspective but research that’s for Indigenous people, by Indigenous people.”
Sinclaire, who was celebrated at last year’s Indigenous Awards of Excellence with a community building award, continues to find new ways to make an impact.
As an outreach coordinator on this app project, Sinclaire works with chiefs and councils to introduce them to the web-based app and explain how it can be used to collect self-reported, real-time data from community members, and how communities can be trained to analyse and present research findings so that the information collected can be used to strengthen decision making at a community level, as well as gain funding for new community initiatives.
To date, the app is being used by hundreds of people within five Indigenous communities in Manitoba and B.C., with questions ranging from How do you feel about COVID-19, to What language does your household speak? When the researchers leave, the equipment and the data stay with the community.
Sinclaire is one of eight Mitacs award winners nationally, chosen from thousands of researchers who take part in Mitacs programs each year.

June 22, 2021

Anishnawbe Health Centre

Toronto Star – Anishnawbe Health Toronto’s Indigenous Health Centre broke ground on its new location in downtown Toronto. Its partners on the site include Miziwe Biik Training Institute for services around education and employment; a child-care and family centre operated by the city, a mixed-use condo building; a restored heritage building and a rental building.

The Indigenous community centre will be completed by 2022 and the remainder of the hub will be finished by 2024. The hub represents a place to celebrate with others, where Indigenous people can gather as a community…And there’s hope that the launch of the hub will inspire groups and businesses across Canada to partner with Indigenous communities to create spaces that will address the systemic discrimination Indigenous people face in Canada’s institutions.

December 7, 2020

Dr. Jennifer Shea, Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University

News at Medicine: Memorial University – Dr. Jennifer Shea, Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, along with a team of community partners, hopes to make cancer care delivery more culturally responsive and more respectful. Supported by the Canadian Partnership for Cancer at $866,000 for four years, the project is led by the Nunatsiavut Government, in partnership with Memorial University, the NunatuKavut Community Council, Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation and the Mushuau Innu First Nation.

Their project, “Courage, Compassion, and Connection, The Journey to Healing: Exploring Cancer Pre-diagnosis for Indigenous Peoples in Labrador” came from a stakeholder session held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in 2018. Two main themes emerged: Challenges during both pre-diagnosis and transitions in care and Cultural Safety

Participants in the session expressed concerns about:

  • the high costs of travel for tests;
  • continuity in care due to a high turnover of health professionals
  • communities without a physician;
  • delays in getting test results.
  • transitions in care around discharge planning, such as patients being released without awareness of the remoteness of their community and expectations on family/caregivers to provide palliative care once they return.

“For First Nations, Inuit and Métis, a cancer diagnosis has obvious health implications, but also social, financial and interpersonal challenges,” said Dr. Shea.

“Often people living in rural and remote communities have to leave their homes and familiar surroundings for health services in unfamiliar territory. Add to that language barriers and misunderstandings of cultural practices and beliefs, which can make communication difficult.

November 30, 2020

Safespace Networks

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres – Indigenous patients can now report health system concerns anonymously using Safespace Networks on the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres’ (BCAAFC) website. Safespace Networks is a community-led, nationwide initiative to create change in the health care system by holding individuals, organizations and institutions accountable to addressing racism.
The app’s design follows the advice of Te′ta-in (Sound of Thunder) Shane Pointe, Knowledge Keeper within Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond’s “In Plain Sight” report to focus on change, rather than a “shame and name” approach.
Dr. Alika Lafontaine founded Safespace Networks in 2019 with the vision of a social enterprise and learning platform for patient advocacy. To learn more, please visit

November 29, 2020

Thunderbird Foundation Partnership

Thunderbird Partnership Foundation – has developed a new mobile app and podcast that promote Indigenous healing and wellness that are grounded in culture, and Indigenous ways of knowing. The new Thunderbird Wellness app provides access to culturally safe, trauma informed and strength-based resources and information to support First Nations wellness, including information about opioid and methamphetamine use, a critical issue for many First Nations communities. The app is interactive and provides easy access to Thunderbird’s surveys about opioid and methamphetamine use, as well as cannabis. It also shares quick links to First Nations treatment facilities across Canada.
Thunderbird’s new podcast is called Mino Bimaadiziwin which means living the good life in the Anishinaabe language. This podcast aims to seek and share insight about addictions and mental health issues, exploring tough issues with some of the leading voices in Indigenous wellness. It too is grounded in culture, Indigenous ways of knowing, respect, kindness, and compassion.
The app and the podcast both draw from key Indigenous wellness resources: Honouring Our Strengths: A Renewed Framework to Address Substance Use Issues Among First Nations People in Canada, the Indigenous Wellness Framework, and the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum.*

September 21, 2020

Indigenous success against COVID-19

“COVID-19 and the Decolonization of Indigenous Public Health.” Canadian Association of Medicine Journal – First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in Canada have had lower rates of COVID-19 overall and a lower case fatality rate than non- Indigenous Peoples despite structural inequities and social determinants that are generally related to poorer health outcomes. First Nations on-reserve have had a COVID-19 case rate:

  • 4 times lower than that of the general Canadian population
  • with 3 times fewer fatalities and
  • a 30% higher recovery rate.

This is vastly different from outcomes during the H1N1 pandemic where rates of the infection were 1000 per 100 000 population among Inuit, and 24 per 100 000 population among non-Indigenous people in Canada Current strategies for Indigenous public health practice, grounded in self-determination, are an important reason for the relative resilience of Indigenous communities in Canada during COVID-19.

In Canada, almost all Indigenous communities have pre-existing emergency preparedness plans, and they have been updated and implemented to deal with the current pandemic. Furthermore, innovative educational materials and public health campaigns have been created by many different First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. These materials build on prevention, isolation and containment measures put forward by public health institutions but are grounded in the local context of each community, including its language, culture, and physical and social environments.

Examples include the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s educational materials, which illustrate hygiene practices, social distancing and isolation procedures in Inuktitut, using common examples from the daily lives of their local community members, as well as frameworks for wellness in the COVID era that draw on the knowledge of Elders and knowledge keepers from specific nations. The adaptation by the Centre for Wise Practices at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto of the Four Directions Medicine Wheel for a holistic approach to pre- venting and building physical, emotional, mental and spiritual resilience during COVID-19, is an example of the latter.

Anticipating further waves of COVID-19, it is important that the design, implementation and leadership of public health by First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities continue in Canada. At its foundation, Indigenous public health must be self-determined:

  • adapted for the needs of specific nations and grounded in local Indigenous language, culture and ways of knowing;
  • developed, implemented and led by Indigenous Peoples; and
  • informed by ongoing monitoring of data as governed by appropriate data sovereignty agreements.

Moreover, all levels of government in Canada must address the social determinants of health both in the short term — to facilitate prevention, control and containment of COVID-19 — and in the long term through investments in infrastructure, food security and chronic disease prevention and management. This will require the decolonizing of health care at individual, organizational and policy levels. Governments, policy- makers and public health providers must embrace the know- ledge, expertise and strong leadership of Indigenous communities to face COVID-19.

June 23, 2020

Atlantic First Nations Water Authority

Global News – Historic framework signed for First Nations-led Atlantic water authority. The federal government signed an agreement that will transfer responsibility for water and wastewater services from Indigenous Services Canada to the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA).
The First Nations-led water authority will act as a single utility provider for 15 Indigenous communities in the region, serving more than 4,500 households. This is the first framework of its kind in Canada.
The AFNWA was formally established in 2018 and more than a decade of planning and collaboration between Atlantic Indigenous chiefs, government and stakeholder groups, including the Atlantic Policy Congress. While 15 Indigenous communities have signed on to participate in the AFNWA, the authority confirmed seven more are on standby to join, and its model can be scaled to include every Indigenous community in Atlantic Canada.
The authority hopes to have its Indigenous-led management team assembled by April next year, with the centralized utility fully operational by 2022. Roughly $2.5 million in federal funding will kick-start its operations.

April 2, 2020

Dr. Treena Wasontí:io Delormier of McGill University’s School of Human Nutrition.

McGill Newsroom – The Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health has awarded a CAD$3.5 million operating grant to Dr. Treena Wasontí:io Delormier of McGill University’s School of Human Nutrition. The grant will help to establish a Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research (NEIHR) over the next five years in the province of Quebec. The purpose of the NEIHR program is to establish a network of centres focused on capacity development, research and knowledge translation centred on Indigenous Peoples, and is an integral component of CIHR’s $100 M action plan for building healthier futures for Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) peoples living in Canada.
Multiple indicators show that Indigenous Peoples across Canada suffer a significant health gap compared to non-Indigenous populations. This includes reduced life expectancy, higher children mortality rates and increased rates of Tuberculosis infection, all of which underline the pressing need for medical research that focuses on Indigenous health issues. The network is entitled: Tahatikonhsontóntie’ – ‘the faces that are coming ’– Community Mobilization for Indigenous Health Research Capacity and will be hosted at the Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (KSDPP) in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake. The Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project is a nationally and internationally recognised best practice in community-based research with 25 years of experience

March 2, 2020

Indigenous-led heath care partnerships

The article “Indigenous-led health care partnerships in Canada” raises four key points:

  1. Indigenous Peoples in Canada benefit from regaining access to and strengthening traditional cultural ways of life, including health and healing practices.
  2. Many Indigenous communities are working to strengthen cultural healing practices that were marred through colonization and oppressive government policies.
  3. Indigenous-led health care partnerships provide innovative models of interprofessional collaboration, be it in community-based healing lodges, remote clinics or urban hospitals.
  4. Emerging evidence suggests that Indigenous-led health service partnerships improve holistic (inclusive of mind, body, emotion and spirit) health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples, as well as access to care, prevention uptake and adherence to care plans.

The paper discusses specific Indigenous-led health practices in multiple jurisdictions. The paper concludes with specific suggestions for health care providers, managers and researchers across three dimensions:

  • Personal practice
  • In public forums and systems
  • In research
  • Indigenous healers and Elders are sometimes reluctant to build partnerships with physicians out of concern about:
    • the potential overharvesting of plant medicines,
    • disrespectful treatment,
    • cultural appropriation
    • commercialization,
    • unbalanced funding schemes,
    • tokenism and loss of autonomy.

Furthermore, from the patient’s perspective, a survey conducted in eastern Canada reported that 92% of the Indigenous respondents who use tradi¬tional medicine feared disclosing this information to health pro¬fessionals. Better understanding is needed on how to protect Indigenous medicines, healing practices and knowledge in their full integrity while developing and promoting self¬-determination in Indigenous-led health care services and systems that foster cultur¬ally safe spaces for patients, Elders and healers.

May 9, 2019

National Suicide Prevention Plan

CBC – “M-174 National Suicide Prevention Action Plan” passed unanimously in House of Commons. M-174 establishes a “national suicide prevention action plan, including among its provisions (i) commitment to the actions and resources required to establish culturally appropriate community-based suicide prevention programs as articulated by representative organizations of the Inuit, First Nations, and Métis peoples. Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says crises in northern Ontario First Nations prompted motion.

On May 8, 2019, parliamentarians voted unanimously in favour of a national suicide prevention action plan. The Motion M-174 calls on the Government of Canada to establish a national suicide prevention action plan, including among its provisions:

  • commitment to the actions and resources required to establish culturally appropriate community-based suicide prevention programs as articulated by representative organizations of the Inuit, First Nations, and Métis peoples;
  • establishment of national guidelines for best practices in suicide prevention based on evidence of effectiveness in a Canadian context;
  • the creation of a national public health monitoring program for the prevention of suicide and identification of groups at elevated risk;
  • creation of programs to identify, and to attempt to fill, gaps in knowledge relating to suicide and its prevention, including timely and accurate statistical data;
  • development of tools to promote responsible and safe reporting of suicide and its prevention by media;
    establishment of national standards for the training of persons engaged in suicide prevention, whose contact with potentially vulnerable populations provides an opportunity to identify at-risk individuals and direct them to appropriate assessment and treatment;
  • creation of a national online hub providing essential information and guides to accessing services, in English, French, selected Indigenous languages, and other languages spoken widely in Canada for suicidal individuals, their families and friends, people bereaved by a loved one’s suicide, workplaces and other stakeholders concerned with suicide prevention;
  • conducting within 18 months comprehensive analyses of high-risk groups of people, and the risk factors specific to each such group:
    • the degree to which child sexual abuse and other forms of childhood abuse and neglect have an impact on suicidal behaviour,
    • the barriers to Canadians accessing appropriate and adequate health, wellness and recovery services, including substance use, addiction and bereavement services,
    • the funding arrangements required to provide the treatment, education, professional training and other supports required to prevent suicide and assist those bereaved by a loved one’s suicide,
    • the use of culturally appropriate suicide prevention activities and best practices,
    • the role that social media plays with respect to suicide and suicide prevention,
    • means to reduce stigma associated with being a consumer of mental health, bereavement and other associated services, and ways in which society can reduce access to means and methods for people to harm themselves; and,
  • report to Parliament annually on preparations for and implementation of the national action plan for suicide prevention, including data on progress over the previous year, and a comprehensive statistical overview of suicide in Canada for the same year.

May 2, 2019

National Suicide Prevention Plan

Nunatsiaq News – In a move partly influenced by work done by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the governments of Nunavut and Quebec, members of all parties in the House of Commons said yes to the idea of a national suicide prevention action plan. “Our government is working closely with Indigenous leadership to encourage and promote Indigenous-led strategies to address suicide prevention in their own communities,” Dan Vandal, parliamentary secretary to Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said. Vandal also gave a detailed description of ITK’s National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy, listing its six priorities.

But at the same time, Vandal said ITK’s strategy may not be a good fit for other Indigenous peoples. To that end, he said the federal government is working with the Métis Nation to develop “a Métis Nation specific approach” to suicide prevention. And the federal government is also working with First Nations on a First Nations mental wellness continuum framework directed at First Nations communities, Vandal said.

The motion calls for the following:

  • The establishment of national guidelines for best practices in suicide prevention.
  • A national public health monitoring program to identify groups at elevated risk of suicide.
  • Culturally appropriate, community-based suicide prevention programs for Inuit, First Nations and Métis.
  • Creation of programs aimed at filling in gaps in knowledge related to suicide and its prevention.
  • National standards for training people in suicide prevention.
  • Development of tools to promote safe and responsible reporting of suicide by media.

The motion also calls for a comprehensive analysis on how child sexual abuse and other forms of childhood abuse and neglect contribute to suicidal behaviour. And it calls for an analysis of the barriers that Canadians face in gaining access to health, wellness and recovery services, including substance use, addiction and bereavement services.

March 14, 2019

The Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre and the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research

The Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) and the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) – have developed an in-person training module for Health researchers. ”Building Research Relationships with Indigenous Communities” (BRRIC), is the first of its kind in Canada. It seeks to provide researchers with the basic tools and knowledge to build meaningful research relationships in a good way with Indigenous peoples and their communities.

BRRIC also incorporates traditional Indigenous knowledge and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It is designed to provide researchers with the necessary policies, frameworks, and Indigenous ethical standards needed to respectfully engage with Indigenous communities and patients including:

  • the history of Indigenous health and research in Saskatchewan;
    existing policies and frameworks guiding research with Indigenous communities such as OCAP™,
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action,
  • Tri-Council Policy Statement Chapter 9 and;
  • protocol on how to respectfully and meaningfully engage communities in research projects.

September 5, 2018

Bear Clan Patrol

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – Today’s resurgence of the Bear Clan Patrol is in response to the need in Winnipeg to protect the women, children, elderly and vulnerable community members. Originally started in 1992, a reconstituted Bear Clan Patrol hit the streets after the murder of Tina Fontaine in 2014 with 12 members that now boasts 980 people in Winnipeg alone. It has also spread outside Winnipeg, spanning across 24 different communities in 12 cities in five provinces all the way from Ottawa to East Hastings in Vancouver.
So far in 2018 35 tonnes of food has been donated. They clocked 21,000 volunteer hours in 2017 and forecast 33,000 volunteer hours this year. They have collected almost 30,000 needles so far in 2018. They have seven paid full-time and part-time staff workers. In June, they had $50,000 in temporary work placements. They are janitors, first responders, neighbours, ambassadors but most importantly they do this because they care about the people who call the North End home. (Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs)

March 14, 2018

Regional Health Survey Vol 1 and 2

The RHS is the first and only national health survey created, conducted and carried out by First Nations people for First Nations people by the First Nations Information Governance Centre. The survey collects information about on reserve and northern First Nations communities based on both Western and traditional understandings of health and well-being.

The First Nations’ Principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP) changed the research world in Canada with regard to how research is conducted on–reserve and in northern First Nations communities. The RHS process has taken a leadership role in implementing First Nations’ self-determination in the area of research and OCAP has led the way for First Nations to exercise jurisdiction over their information. This is the only way to move forward in the area of research and information management.