Over the course of Canada’s history, colonization, assimilation, and genocidal practices have been used by governmental sectors to eliminate Indigenous peoples and their ways of being. However, Indigenous peoples have persevered and are now working with one another and their allied services to revitalize their culture and improve health outcomes.
Wellbeing within the context of Indigenous health encompasses all aspects of one’s existence: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. For one to be in a good state of overall health, it is important for these aspects to be in harmony with one another. In order for this to occur, one must have an awareness of these different realms and how they interconnect and relate to one another. A physical representation of this concept would be the medicine wheel, which has origins with the Ojibwe nation—suggesting that there needs to be a balance between these four aspects for one to maintain good health. An imbalance between the realms could impact one’s overall well being in a negative way.
Maintaining this balance of well being in life, especially in university, is very important. To help with this process, it is critical that we work towards creating an Indigenous community at McMaster. This will ultimately help to build connections and maintain cultural connectedness. In addition, through encouraging this inclusivity to become part and parcel of Indigenous student’s campus lifestyle, it contributes to an overarching sense of community-building, identity, and overall wellbeing.
For Indigenous students who have moved away from their communities and families, adjusting to the McMaster campus may be a difficult transition. However, there are simple ways that you can continue building a sense of cultural connectedness during your time here. You are able to maintain ties to your culture, which will allow you to work towards the building of an overall sense of wellbeing.
There are an array of services that have been specifically established for Indigenous students on campus. Offices like the Indigenous Students Health Sciences office in Health Sciences Centre 2A1E, or the Indigenous Studies Program in L.R. Wilson Hall 1811, offer many levels of support to students. These include events such as socials, guest speaker lectures, craft workshops, conferences, and programs like the Elder-in-residence – where you can speak to, or go and make crafts with an Elder from the community. There are also student-led social groups that you can join, or attend their events throughout the year. These groups include the Aboriginal Health Interest Group, McMaster Indigenous Graduate Students, and McMaster Indigenous Students Community Alliance. All groups welcome Indigenous students and allies.
AHIG is a group of McMaster medical students dedicated to promoting an understanding of the health issues affecting Aboriginal Peoples and improving Aboriginal health through knowledge-based activities. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MIGS is a group for Indigenous graduate students and allies, creating opportunities for scholarly dialogue and collaboration regarding their research interests and shared common experiences related to graduate-level education. They can be reached at email@example.com.
MFNSA was formed in 1989 to offer social supports for students and to raise awareness about Indigenous issues (including political and social activism) and offer an array of events such as bead making, moccasin making, powwows, and Haudenosaunee-style socials. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community-building is an integral part of the student experience, a factor which contributes to the feeling of belonging and the development and promotion of cultural connectedness. This dialogue must continue amongst student groups and leaders so that we can continue to collaboratively build awareness and cultural competency. After all, part of our overarching goal is to build networks to improve health and wellbeing for the all-inclusive student body.