Looking to Indigenous Ways of Knowing to Improve Indigenous Peoples’ Health
Human health and well-being are deeply entwined with the Earth’s health and wellbeing. In this sense, the way we treat the lands and waters around us is often a reflection of our own health.
Canada’s Indigenous peoples are “of this place”—meaning they emerged from its lands and waters. But their relationship with the Earth was significantly interrupted by European settlement, and colonization continues to have a profound impact on their present-day health and social conditions and communities. Indigenous peoples within Canada fare more poorly than their non-Indigenous counterparts on virtually every measure of health and social well-being.
By recognizing the intricate inter-relationship between the health of people and that of the natural world, Dr. Debbie Martin, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples’ Health and Well-Being, aims to generate effective chronic disease prevention strategies in Indigenous communities. She and her research team are working with communities to bring the long-standing wisdom of Indigenous perspectives on health and well-being into the complex sphere of chronic disease prevention research.
For example, Martin and her team will explore the applicability of “two-eyed seeing” as a way to improve the health of Indigenous peoples. Two-eyed seeing suggests that the most complex problems facing our world today require the benefit of diverse perspectives, hence the pressing need for Indigenous voices and knowledge to be valued alongside western scientific perspectives.
Ultimately, the goal of Martin’s research is to develop strategies for improving chronic disease outcomes in Indigenous communities using approaches that both respect and value diverse ways of knowing.