CANE acknowledges and celebrates National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st. CANE’s Board and committee members continue to reflect on our role in a health system that, historically and ongoingly, has fostered institutionalized racism towards Indigenous peoples.
Relationship with the land is central to health and healing in Indigenous communities. The impact of generations of colonization has dispossessed and disconnected Indigenous Peoples from their traditional territories and lands. In response to persistent colonial policies and social systems, Indigenous Peoples are resurging and sustaining Indigenous lifeways through their movements toward land-based education and healing. Read on to learn more about land-based education as Indigenous-led health care and healing practice.
Indigenous Land-based Learning
Indigenous land-based cultural practices are multi-faceted and pull together layered concepts and teachings. There are hundreds of diverse Indigenous nations across Canada, and Indigenous land-based teachings are just as varied and place-based. We encourage you to read “Land as teacher: Understanding Indigenous land-based education”, a rich account of land-based education in the context of ongoing colonialism, dispossession, reconciliation and decolonization across the country. “Learning from the land: Indigenous land-based pedagogy and decolonization” delves into further detail and analysis of land-based learning and decolonization. See this pamphlet inspired by the work of the Misipawistik Pimatisiméskanaw land-based learning program (Misipawistik Cree Nation, Manitoba) to learn how Indigenous land-based education benefits public policy such as sustainable development, the TRC Calls to Action, and climate action.
Indigenous Land-based Learning as a Health and Healing Practice
Connection to the land is a central aspect of Indigenous culture, health and well-being and is embedded in Indigenous knowledge. Land-based activities – including food and medicine harvesting, ceremony, education, knowledge translation, and psychospiritual support – are key elements of this holistic and integrative cultural practice. Indigenous land-based programs have proven to contribute positively to mental health and well-being and are a particularly vital way of cultural reclamation for Indigenous youth.
While known by Indigenous Peoples for millennia, there is now a growing body of evidence and research supporting this knowledge. A recent study from the University of Manitoba utilized photovoice to explore how land and nature contribute to health and resilience among Indigenous youth in Canadian urban settings. In the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut, a recent research article describes the positive outcomes of land-based practice for Indigenous youth and adults in a dynamic and changing world. This paper, by members of Carrier Sekani Family Services, shares about land-based healing for addictions in the Carrier First Nation and how land-based healing is incorporated into their healing center.
Indigenous Land-based Healing in Nursing Curriculum
Land is a determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health, but the Western biomedical health system – including the nursing profession – has neglected its importance. To counter this erasure and indigenize nursing curriculum, nursing programs can seek to integrate Indigenous land-based education with the aid of Elders and Knowledge Keepers. CANE encourages nursing schools across Canada to incorporate land as a determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health into nursing curricula and engage in indigenizing and allying to Indigenous-led decolonization in nursing education. In British Columbia, both Thompson Rivers University and North Island College have incorporated an Indigenous land-based education immersion for first-year BSN students. These are just two examples, and there are likely many more. Most importantly, Canadian nurses need to consider how they can contribute to ensuring that Indigenous peoples have access to their lands as it is fundamental for their culture and health. In this, we encourage looking at the Yellowhead Institute’s publication Land Back and stay tuned for an online course of the same name.
Also, check out the fantastic work of Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin, Dr. Evelyn Voyageur, and CANE’s own June Kaminski, Ph.D.(c) to learn about Indigenous nurse educators leading the way to indigenize nursing curriculum and forge a wise, land-based, and just path forward. If you’d prefer to listen to something, check out this podcast from Gritty Nurse entitled An Indigenous Nurse’s Perspective- Healthcare, Colonialism and Allyship.