Indigenous research, student experiences shared at community event

Community relationship building, truth-telling and mentorship were among key themes discussed at an event highlighting Brock University research led by Indigenous and Indigenous-ally scholars.

More than 100 Ontario-based participants, predominantly from the Niagara region, Six Nations of the Grand River, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and Simcoe-Muskoka, joined in person and online for “Healing Circles of Engagement, Weaving Relationships in Research,” a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Scientifique Café.

Hosted by the Department of Nursing Research Committee, the event saw students, researchers, Indigenous community members and representatives from health agencies come together on Wednesday, Aug. 23 to explore how Indigenous ways of knowing and understanding are being embedded into Brock research.

Brock researchers shared information in a panel on Indigenous health demographics, co-creation of research questions that reflect the priorities and worldviews of Indigenous Peoples, and the importance of revitalizing language and culture for community well-being.

A second panel included Brock students and faculty members who spoke about the learnings that can take place in reciprocal mentor and mentee dynamics and how they serve to fill gaps that Indigenous students experience while enrolled in the academy.

A woman stands at a podium listening to a seated woman speaking into a microphone while three panellists and audience members listen.

From left, Brock Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement Robyn Bourgeois moderates the “Indigenous Methodologies and Protocols” discussion as Assistant Professor of Nursing Vanessa Silva e Silva answers an audience member question, and Assistant Professor of Nursing Connie Schumacher, Associate Professor of Nursing Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy and PhD student and Lecturer for Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology Lyn Trudeau listen.

“The main purpose of this CIHR Café was to gather everyone together and create a space for dialogue and building good relationships,” says Sheila O’Keefe-McCarthy, Associate Professor of Nursing and Nursing Research Committee Chair.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health and Brock’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, the day was grounded in traditional teachings from Elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, who provided a traditional welcome and opening remarks.

Honouring the importance of moving forward with a good mind and spirit, participants also joined Innu Elder Dave Labbé for a Sacred Fire ceremony.

“The formal and informal conversations that took place through the day became more integral and intentional as each person shared their knowledge and experiences,” says O’Keefe-McCarthy.

Participating as both a panellist and poster presenter, PhD student Michelle Bomberry won the event’s graduate student award for her showcased work, “Ędwadewáyęsta Ohwęjádeh: We Learn from the Earth.” The qualitative arts-based research study uses a traditional Indigenous conceptual framework to explore how children and parents value a decolonized education structure.

“Being able to be mentored as a Research Assistant and preparing for this event, helped me to hone my skills in doing research,” says Bomberry. “This Indigenous café was a great opportunity to highlight the work being done at Six Nations to revitalize culture and language.”

Closing the event, Brock Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement Robyn Bourgeois provided feedback and gratitude for the knowledge sharing that took place before offering a song for safe travels.

All participants who registered will be sent an email inviting them to evaluate the Café and make recommendations for future opportunities.

“The feedback we have received so far has been very positive and informative,” says Connie Schumacher, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Nursing Research Committee Co-chair. “I am so thankful participants felt comfortable contributing to the discussions and supporting each other. We have started a conversation, our hope is that this is a new beginning of mentorship, partnerships and reciprocity.”

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