Indigenous Health and the Racist Healthcare System

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BY ISABELLA BOURQUE

On Oct. 22, the Workshops in Building Capacity for Reconciliation held the second workshop of the school year. The night was focused on Indigenous Healthcare and the secretive (and maybe not so secretive) ways in which healthcare institutions around the country have been degrading and exploiting Indigenous peoples for decades (and still do today).

The speaking panel of the night consisted of: Elder Clifford Cardinal (Whitefish-Goodfish Lake), Gary Geddes (Author Medic`ine Unbundled), Tibetha Kemble (Director, Indigenous Health Initiatives U of A), Dr. Cara Bablitz (MD, Indigenous Wellness Clinic), and Natasha Gougeon (RN, Indigenous Wellness Clinic). Cardinal and Geddes talked about the horrific realities that many Indigenous peoples have faced with Indian hospitals that were set up to segregate Indigenous Peoples from other Canadians for health care.

Indigenous people have been forced against their will to be used for top-secret experimentations for years on end. Some, like Mary Theresa Morris, who was held captive in a hospital for 17 years of experimentation (after just simply walking into the hospital, not being unusually unhealthy in any way), have stories that need to be told. Eugenics (sterilization without consent) was also practiced on many patients.

Kemble, Bablitz, and Gougeon talked about the modern side of healthcare. Bablitz and Gougeon expressed their work with the Indigenous Wellness Clinic, located in Edmonton, which is set up for Indigenous peoples. The Clinic blends western and Indigenous health practice, and uses healing methodologies within the medicine wheel (spiritual health, mental health, physical health, emotional health). Not only do they treat Indigenous peoples here, they also advocate for patients who have to seek further medical attention outside the Clinic. The Indigenous Wellness Clinic is also used as a space where people can come to hang out for the day; it is a place for some to seek shelter and a hot meal on cold days. The Clinic is focused on providing Indigenous peoples with positive experiences in healthcare as opposed to the mistreatment they have experienced in the past, as well as today, in non-Indigenous centres.

Kemble talked about her role in educating medical doctors about how to care for Indigenous patients from an understanding of their own cultures. She has done work in responding to the TRC in ways to help ensure that there are more Indigenous health professionals, and that all practitioners (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) work with the knowledge of the past so as to not repeat these horrible things in the future. One way they are doing this is by having mandatory classes on Indigenous history and current issues for all students in the faculty of medicine and dentistry at the University of Alberta.    

Upcoming events for Métis Week:

Nov. 14 – Edmonton Métis Dancers will be performing at 6:00 p.m. in the Cargill Theatre in the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre. Free public performance – everyone welcome!

Nov. 15 – Lunch and Learn with Dr. Kisha Supernant “Reconciling the Past for the Future: Unsettling Métis as Mixed in the Archeological Record”. If students register with the Alumni Office, you will get a free lunch of hamburger soup and bannock!

  • Hamburger soup and bannock for lunch in the Cafeteria

Nov. 16 – Bannock and Jam in the Forum and Métis Crafts from 11:30 – 1 p.m.

 

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