Cultural Safety Module 3: Peoples Experiences of  Colonization in Relation to Health Care

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Supporting Inclusive Healing Processes

In order to improve health care access for Aboriginal peoples and their health care experiences, health professionals must accept that different healing processes exist for different people. For example, some (not all) Aboriginal people like to have many family members with them in the hospital, which can create tension for staff and other patients. This tension often arises from restrictions around visiting times and certain entrenched behaviours. The question is: Is it possible to have an optimal healing environment if we change how we think about visiting hours?

Some would say, "Absolutely!"

Evelyn Voyageur knows of a hospital in Whitehorse, YK, in which a whole floor has been created to facilitate the traditional way. There is a healing room shaped like a teepee where people come for healing within the hospital setting. All members of the health care team working on that floor are Aboriginal, including the nutritionist. Family members bring in local food, and there are no restrictions on the food.

Evelyn also spoke about how, in a large urban hospital, her mother was moved to a bigger room to accommodate the number of people visiting her. This was very significant because the visitors were important to her healing; for example, her two great-grandsons sang traditional songs for her.

Evelyn spoke of another time when she was visiting a relative who was alone in hospital, and the nurse said, "She needs her rest, so don't stay long." However, the fact that someone was there, quietly, was the most important thing for her relative; Evelyn's presence was important to her healing.7

In the "Father in Hospital" clip, Roger describes how flexibility in the hospital helped his family.


Roger John, Father in Hospital
Roger John,
Father in Hospital

[Text Transcript]


Strength and Resistance

It is important for heath care providers to be aware of the strength, resilience, and resistance of Aboriginal peoples. Even though great efforts were taken to assimilate them inot the dominant culture, Aboriginal people did not give in. A unique strength and way of being in the world has meant that they are moving on and are in control of their lives.

In the following two video clips, Sheila speaks about resistance as a very positive control, power over one's life, and getting on with life. She also describes how empowerment for the future is happening through healing and resistance.

In the next clip, Joan Morris relates how, although there can be a fine line between healing and re-traumatization, she sees the return to the Indian hospital site as a beginning point for healing in her community. This, too, is an example of resistance and resilience.

Evelyn Voyageur also believes that the powerful experience of returning to former sites of oppression, such as residential schools, is important to begin healing processes. Evelyn coordinated an opportunity for local people to speak and supported those who wished to begin their healing processes at the school she and her people had once attended.8 People can then take back their healing to their communities.

Joan Morris thinks such opportunities can restore and reclaim people's spirit, which will facilitate their healing, both emotional and physical.9


Joan Morris, Elders Return to Nanaimo Indian Hospital
Joan Morris,
Elders Return to Nanaimo Indian Hospital

[Text Transcript]


You can undertake forms of constructive resistance as a nurse, and in your everyday life, to facilitate healing processes. For example, are there times in your life when you resisted discrimination? How did you do this?

Take a few minutes now to do Activity 3, Standing Your Ground.  

Providing a supportive environment in health care settings is important for people's healing. In the first of the following two clips, Sheila provides insight into her personal experience. In the second clip, Sheila describes how her parents' choices in the past influence her current healing process.

Click to watch video clips/read text transcripts.

Sheila Dick, Sheila's Time of Healing
Sheila Dick,
My Time of Healing

[Text Transcript]
  vertical line   Sheila Dick, Parents' Choice
Sheila Dick,
Parents' Choice

[Text Transcript]

You may find information provided so far in Module 3 disturbing and distressing. If you do, the Suggestions for Self Care may be of help.

In the next two clips, Sheila emphasizes that Aboriginal people are not a burden and that, despite many barriers, they have values that support strong and respectful communities. As Sheila says, her children have values and she is happy about that.

Reflect on how cultural safety reminds us how history, power, and inclusion affect health, health care and healing. Based on what you have heard and read in these modules and the Recommended Readings, how can you, as a nurse, support healing for people?

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