Indigenous Research Gathering Report

As a result of the legacy of residential schools, feelings of mistrust and apprehension with mainstream institutions are common among Indigenous communities in Canada. (1) Because of this history, many Indigenous Peoples are apprehensive about research that originates outside of their community. In the past, research across Canada involving Indigenous Peoples has been carried out by primarily non-Indigenous researchers, has had little or no apparent return to the community, and has been carried out in ways that jeopardize relationships and trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. (2)

With NOSM’s social accountability mandate, the School’s research portfolio is focused on conducting research that will help improve the health of Northern Ontarians. In particular, it is vital to improve access to culturally safe health and social services in order to address the health disparities experienced by Indigenous Peoples. In order to design a path forward for inclusive research with Indigenous Peoples, NOSM’s Indigenous Reference Group and the Research Portfolio organized the Indigenous Research Gathering, which brought together more than 100 Indigenous Peoples from across the North in the traditional territory of Anishnabek (Ojibway) Peoples of Baawaating. The purpose of the Gathering was to review the past and current research practices and begin to develop guiding principles that build inclusive and culturally respectful health research programs.

Preceded by a dinner hosted by Algoma University and tour of the previous Shingwuak Residential School, the Indigenous Research Gathering had a strong element of ceremony, including opening prayers, drumming, a sacred fire outside, a sweat lodge ceremony, and sunrise ceremonies. In addition to the ceremonial elements, community partners heard presentations from:

  • Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, who spoke about the trauma experienced by Indigenous Peoples and the role of all Canadians in the process of reconciliation.
  • Dr. Marie Wilson on the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in healing Canada’s colonial past.
  • Researchers, many of whom are Indigenous, who have conducted successful community-based research with Indigenous communities.

Most importantly, a facilitated workshop provided an opportunity for delegates to work in groups to provide guidance to NOSM about the future for participatory, inclusive health research with Indigenous Peoples. They discussed lessons learned, a path forward, priorities, and guiding principles and protocols. Themes that resonated out of these sessions included: community control, inclusivity, transparency, accountability, respect and relationships, and the Seven Grandfather teachings.

View Indigenous Research Gathering Report

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1. West, J. (2014, November 26). First Nations mistrust health system, Dalhousie researchers say. CBC News. Retrieved from www.cbc.ca
2. Government of Canada. Panel on Research Ethics. (2015). Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples of Canada. Retrieved from www.pre.ethics.gc.ca.