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Learning Aboriginal health promotion : six life stories



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This inquiry answered the questions: What is the most culturally respectful method for a cross-cultural researcher to discover how northern Aboriginal people learn and make decisions about their health? What will be the common patterns of learning among northern Saskatchewan Aboriginal people who have altered their life path? And what strategies will any common patterns suggest for the development of health promotion and community development programs specific to the cultures and people of northern Saskatchewan? Six Aboriginal people, whom I call my teachers, were selected because they had turned their lives around to more closely approximate a Cree idea of health called mithwayawin or the Dene idea of health called hote Zgehenai. A literature search and consultations with my teachers suggested that a respectful form of cross-cultural inquiry was possible in northern Saskatchewan communities. Furthermore, there were common themes suggesting a foundation of wellness and resilience indicating that similar resiliency factors exist in northern cultures as exist in other cultures. As well, common patterns suggested a lateral thinking and learning style or creative problem solving that is different from vertical or linear thinking common to the scientific-industrial cultures. Moreover, other themes suggested that the teachers had a preference for accumulating experience over abstract analysis indicating the desirability of active participation by community members in defining health challenges, arriving at solutions and planning and implementing changes. Furthermore, other themes suggested that the teachers life long learning occurred in a holistic context indicating that health promotion strategies could provide rich social, physical, spiritual and mental contexts within which Northerners can learn. As well, other themes suggested that the teachers used an Aboriginal ecological learning process indicating that health promotion efforts could consider working to revitalize the cultural beliefs, values and practices and could provide a rich environment of spiritual, physical and social activities so that the people would have the opportunity to fully develop their brain, mind, body, memory continuum and thereby achieve balance. The findings further implied that increasing general health knowledge among Northerners and using a community health development process in northern communities are strategies that northern health promotion and community development workers could consider employing in their work. More detailed and specific strategies are suggested.



aboriginal health, Dene, northern Saskatchewan, Cree



Master of Continuing Education (M.C.Ed.)


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Educational Foundations



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