4 Reconcili-Actions for NDs
Reconciliation suggestions that you see on social media usually go something like this:
1. Educate yourself.
2. Write to government.
You read them and think:
1. Ok good, I already know about Indigenous people (although there is always more to learn).
2. I don’t really feel comfortable writing to strangers in authority (although they are there to represent your interests).
3. Insufficient funds (fair point; although even a dollar or two helps a lot, especially if it is a pledged and recurring donation).
Good news! There are other concrete actions that are specific to our roles as NDs.
Reflect on whether we are heeding our own call to action.
As healthcare providers, Call to Action #22 in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report speaks directly to us:
“We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.(1)
Are your practices serving the needs of Indigenous individuals?
This is a hard pill for me to swallow. Despite cultural competency training and an accessible practice model, I was unsuccessful when an Indigenous patient sought my services. I went too quickly, trying to elicit concerns which the patient seemed unwilling to share, and was flustered when I did not know the culturally appropriate response to the news of a deceased family member. I learned from this experience that relationship-building and patience are critical, even if the patient chooses not to share every health concern. I want to learn to sit with my discomfort and release the result-oriented visit approach.
Visits can be started with expressions of gratitude – being thankful that the patient made the choice to be with you today. In contemporary research settings, interviews with Indigenous participants are started off with the offering of tobacco as gratitude and acknowledgement of the sacredness of the patient’s story.(2) Another piece is matching the patient’s tone and pace. Other areas to consider are the perceived power distribution between you and the patient, and remembering to address spiritual health.
A difficult skill for most non-Indigenous practitioners is allowing for silence. The value of silence is introduced to Indigenous people first through parenting, where traditionally caregivers do not make casual conversation with children, but rather prefer purposeful directives and teachings when timing is appropriate.(3) As a result, children and caregivers develop a deeper perception of each other’s non-verbal cues.
If you have already seen an Indigenous patient who did not book a follow up, perhaps reflect on the visit, and consider how to make it a better experience for you both in the future.
Tend to Native Plants in our Gardens, and use them in our Practice
When we became naturopathic doctors, we promised to preserve the health of our planet. One way we can do this is to work to restore the land. Invasion of land by foreign species of plants and animals show the vast ripple effect of colonization that permeates through all systems. Restoration can be initiated by removing the foreign species currently holding the land, and planting and nurturing native species. Consider whether the land you live on was a forest, meadow, or wetland prior to settlement, and bring this landscape back. This work can be done even if you don’t have access to private land of your own. Plants can be grown on balconies, and there are opportunities to participate in local initiatives, like the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Learn what medicines grow naturally in your area, and seek to learn more about their traditional use. How should these plants be thanked when you use them? What is their story? How can they be harvested and prepared so as to ensure there is enough left for others?
Use our Votes to increase Indigenous Representation in Parliament
Did you know that there has never been an Indigenous minister of Indigenous affairs?
There is no mandate for Indigenous representation in parliament. There is no true opportunity for self-government of nations that did not consent to be overseen by the Crown.
Furthermore, most Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls to action are directed at the government. By empowering Indigenous people in politics, they are empowered to ensure that these calls to action are implemented.
Teach Children Indigenous Values
Ojibwe tradition tells of seven grandfather teachings: wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth.(4) Teach the children in your life these values, so that they may express them in all their relations.
Model perspective-taking, empathy, and nonviolent conflict resolution.(5) Act to stop racism and oppression. Have Indigenous literature available so that they may learn through powerful stories. Use your children’s transgressions as opportunities to teach values, societal rules, and life lessons, rather than violence.(3)
Allow the village to raise your children. Accept help from family members and friends, especially from grandparents who connect best with children because of their unique stage in the life journey.(4)
Help children experience the world through a circular and relational lens.(6) Show them how their actions affect everything around them. Let them develop their senses by decreasing stimulation and allowing for autonomous exploration of their environment. Do not feel pressured to talk to your children all the time.(3) Foster collaboration rather than competition, and do not glorify progress and efficient use of time, starting as early as developmental milestones by letting each child develop on their own timeline.
Involve children in your own spiritual and cultural ceremonies and practices. Children experience them deeply, use them in forming their identity, and through them, develop resilience. Explore with your children their origins. Tell them about colonization, residential schools, and Indigenous issues today, and show them how you are helping to set things right.