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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Indigenous wholistic theory for health : enhancing traditional-based indigenous health services in Vancouver Marsden, Dawn Marie


How traditional healing can be enhanced in cities, has been the subject of discussion between myself and Indigenous Elders, and between many others, for over 15 years. This project was initiated and completed through the recommendations of Indigenous Elders, through prayer and dreaming, and through increasingly specific factors: 1. Two to four hundred years of unequal relations between colonizing and Indigenous peoples, resulting in 2. Significant and persistent inequalities in the health and educational status of Indigenous peoples, leading to 3. Indigenous calls for more culturally appropriate health services, as reflected in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), instigating 4. Canadian government strategies for implementing the RCAP recommendations, entitled Gathering Strengths, which prompted a 5. Vancouver/Richmond Health Board review of local Aboriginal health and services, entitled Healing Ways, which led to 6. A Strategic Plan to Develop an Aboriginal Healing Centre in Vancouver, in which traditional healing was emphasized This dissertation affirms and extends prior research, including the National Aboriginal Health Organization document "Traditional Medicine in Contemporary Contexts" by asking how the access and provision of traditional-based health services (traditional healing) can be enhanced, by and for Indigenous peoples in a specific location (Greater Vancouver Regional District; Indigenous pop: 77,500), and by designing, implementing and analyzing this research, using Indigenous wholistic theory, storywork, and talking circle methodologies, protocols, and processes of analysis (prayer, dreaming, reflection, dialogue). Collective storywork, confirms and extends prior research, by providing locally-specific and detailed strategies for societal, institutional and community enhancements, including the establishment of a cohesive governance framework, educational campaigns, establishment of integrated health teams, establishment of a traditional-based Indigenous practitioner's council, establishment of liaison positions, and the establishment of traditional-based Indigenous healing centres. In addition, the research process has resulted in an affirmation and extension of: Indigenous wholistic theory, storywork and talking circle methodologies, Indigenous protocols and processes, a model for Indigenous research entitled a Wampum Research Model, a discussion of the inextricability of health and education, a need to prioritize worldview in the non-medical determinants of health, and Graham Hingangaroa and Linda Tuhiwai Smith's criteria for Indigenous theorizing and Indigenous projects.

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