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INDIGENOUS MENTAL HEALTH

June is National Indigenous history and national Indigenous people's day is on the 21st of June in 'Canada'... I'll be focusing on the Indigenous mental health + history on Turtle Island which is a term used by some Indigenous peoples to refer to North America. It is a complex issue shaped by historical trauma, cultural resilience, and modern day challenges. Indigenous communities face unique mental health disparities due to colonialism, intergenerational trauma, systemic injustices, and social determinants of health. Efforts to address Indigenous mental health on Turtle Island often involve culturally sensitive approaches that honor traditional healing practices, community support systems, and decolonization efforts. This includes incorporating Indigenous perspectives into mental health services, supporting Indigenous-led initiatives, and addressing the social, economic, and environmental factors impacting mental well-being.

 

Additionally, acknowledging and validating Indigenous knowledge systems, promoting cultural revitalization, and fostering self-determination are crucial aspects of promoting mental wellness within Indigenous communities on Turtle Island. Collaborative efforts between Indigenous communities, healthcare providers, policymakers, and researchers are essential to address the complex intersections of historical trauma and contemporary mental health challenges faced by Indigenous peoples.

As a foreigner living on this land, It took me several years to learn about the Indigenous people and their rich history on this land. I honestly felt lost trying to figure out what's actual history and what's been embellished so it was important that I learn it through Indigenous lens as much as possible. In recent years, there has been more people addressing truth & reconciliation in this country, have to say that I've been horrified reading about things of recent history such as the residential school system, sixties scoop and much more. You can scroll down the page for what you can do as an Indigenous ally, but before we get there.. let's check out some info about the mental health challenges and the some general history of the Indigenous people in this land.

What issues affect Indigenous people's mental health?

Centuries of victimization through colonization, residential schools, child welfare programs (including the Sixties Scoop), and intergenerational trauma have led to these mental health challenges, higher rates of suicide, and substance abuse

https://www.elisplace.org/behind-the-headlines-a-look-at-indigenous-mental-health/

What are the highest common mental health conditions for Indigenous groups?

A research project commissioned by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation found that the most common mental health diagnoses were post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse disorder, and major depression (Research Series, 2003).Jul 9, 2022

https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1576089278958/1576089333975

Do Indigenous people have access to mental health care?

Indigenous populations face unique barriers to accessing mental health help. Indigenous populations face different barriers and are less likely than majority populations to receive professional help for mental health, according to a new study. Nov 3, 2022

https://www.psychiatry.org/News-room/APA-Blogs/Indigenous-Populations-Barriers-to-Help

Why do Indigenous people have poorer health in Canada?

Indigenous peoples do not have equitable access to health services compared to the general Canadian population due to geography, health system deficiencies, and inadequate health human resources. One's location of residence determines one's access to timely and localized health services.

https://www.nccih.ca/docs/determinants/FS-AccessHealthServicesSDOH-2019-EN.pdf

What are the four components of indigenous health?

Aboriginal approaches to health are often rooted in a holistic conception of well-being involving a healthy balance of four elements or aspects of wellness: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

https://www.ccnsa-nccah.ca/docs/context/FS-OverviewAbororiginalHealth-EN.pdf

Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery: A Call to Action

https://www.commonword.ca/FileDownload/22372/WrongsToRights_McAdams_DoDExcerpt.pdf?t=1

Indigenous mental health in the North American continent is a complicated issue influenced by historical trauma, cultural factors, socioeconomic disparities, and access to healthcare. Indigenous communities often face higher rates of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide, compared to the rest of the population. These disparities are rooted in colonization, forced assimilation, loss of land and culture, intergenerational trauma, and inadequate access to culturally relevant mental health services. Efforts to address these issues involve community-driven approaches, cultural revitalization, improved access to mental health services, and policy changes aimed at supporting Indigenous self-determination + wellness.

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INDIGENOUS HISTORY IN 'CANADA'

Indigenous history in Canada over the last 100 years is marked by profound changes, challenges, and resilience. This period includes significant events and policies that have shaped the experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Here's a detailed overview:

1920s-1940s: Assimilation and Oppression

1. Residential Schools: The residential school system, which aimed to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture, reached its peak. Children were forcibly removed from their families, resulting in widespread trauma and loss of language and culture.
2. Indian Act Amendments: Amendments to the Indian Act continued to restrict Indigenous rights and governance, including prohibitions on traditional ceremonies and political organizing.

 

1950s-1960s: Social Change and Resistance

1. 1951 Indian Act Revision: The Indian Act was revised to remove some oppressive measures, such as bans on potlatches and traditional regalia, but still maintained significant control over Indigenous lives.
2. 60s Scoop: During the 1960s, a large number of Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed into foster care or adopted by non-Indigenous families, resulting in further cultural disconnection.

 

1970s: Political Mobilization and Legal Battles

1. Formation of National Organizations: The National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) and the Native Council of Canada (now the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples) were formed to advocate for Indigenous rights.
2. Calder Case (1973): The Supreme Court of Canada recognized Aboriginal title for the first time in Calder v. British Columbia, a landmark decision that led to future land claims negotiations.

 

1980s: Constitutional Recognition and Advocacy

1. Constitution Act, 1982: Section 35 of the Constitution Act recognized and affirmed existing Aboriginal and treaty rights, marking a significant legal acknowledgment of Indigenous rights.
2. First Ministers’ Conferences: Attempts to define and implement Section 35 rights through political negotiation between Indigenous leaders and federal and provincial governments.

 

1990s: Land Claims and Self-Government

1. Oka Crisis (1990): A land dispute between the Mohawk community of Kanesatake and the town of Oka, Quebec, highlighted longstanding issues of land rights and led to increased political activism.
2. Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996): The commission's report provided a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state, recommending widespread reforms.

 

2000s: Apologies and Reconciliation Efforts

1. Residential School Apology (2008): Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the residential school system's abuses.
2. Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008-2015): Established as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the TRC documented the experiences of residential school survivors and issued 94 Calls to Action to address the legacy of the schools and advance reconciliation.

 

2010s: Ongoing Challenges and Resilience

1. Idle No More Movement (2012): A grassroots movement advocating for Indigenous sovereignty, environmental protection, and economic justice, sparking widespread protests and political action.
2. **Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG)**: Increased awareness and activism around the high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls, culminating in a national inquiry (2016-2019) that issued a final report with Calls for Justice.

 

2020s: Continuing Struggles and Progress

1. Discovery of Unmarked Graves: In 2021, the remains of 215 children were found at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, followed by similar discoveries at other sites, reigniting national and international attention on the legacy of residential schools.
2. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP): In 2021, Canada passed legislation to implement UNDRIP, committing to align Canadian laws with the rights and principles outlined in the declaration.

ONGOING ISSUES

1. Land and Resource Rights: Continued disputes and negotiations over land, natural resources, and environmental protection, including conflicts over pipelines and resource extraction projects.
2. Health and Social Inequities: Persistent disparities in health, education, housing, and economic opportunities, exacerbated by systemic racism and inadequate government responses.
3. Cultural Revitalization: Efforts to revive and sustain Indigenous languages, traditions, and cultural practices, often led by community initiatives and supported by governmental and non-governmental programs.

The last century of Indigenous history in Canada is characterized by resilience and a strong commitment to preserving and revitalizing cultures and rights despite numerous challenges. Indigenous communities continue to advocate for justice, recognition, and self-determination, working towards a future that honors their heritage and autonomy.

Carol Hopkins talks about how intergenerational trauma affects the Canadian public differently than how it affects Indigenous people. Indigenous people not only lack consistent access to culturally appropriate resources, they are also left to carry the burden of communities in how they address intergenerational trauma.

INDIGENOUS HISTORY IN 'AMERICA'

Indigenous history in the United States over the last 100 years is a story of resilience, activism, and struggle for rights and recognition. Here’s an overview of significant events and developments:

1920s-1940s: Policies of Assimilation and Repression

1. Indian Citizenship Act (1924): Granted U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States, but did not guarantee the right to vote.
2. Meriam Report (1928): A federal study that highlighted the poor living conditions and inadequate services on reservations, leading to some policy changes.

1950s-1960s: Termination and Relocation

1. Termination Policy: The U.S. government pursued a policy of terminating recognition of certain tribes and ending the trust relationship, aiming to assimilate Indigenous peoples into mainstream society. This led to loss of lands and resources.
2. Relocation Program: Encouraged Native Americans to leave reservations for urban areas, promising jobs and better living conditions but often resulting in social and economic challenges.

1960s-1970s: Activism and Self-Determination

1. Red Power Movement: Inspired by the civil rights movement, Native American activists demanded rights and recognition. Key events included:
   - Occupation of Alcatraz (1969-1971): Activists occupied the island to highlight the government's broken treaties and demand land for a cultural center and university.
   - Trail of Broken Treaties (1972): A cross-country protest culminating in a week-long occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.
   - Wounded Knee Occupation (1973): AIM (American Indian Movement) activists occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota, to protest corruption and demand treaty rights.

2. Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (1975): Allowed tribes to contract with the federal government to operate programs serving their communities, fostering greater autonomy.

1980s-1990s: Legal and Political Advances

1. Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (1988): Established the framework for tribal gaming operations, leading to economic development and revenue for many tribes.
2. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) (1990): Provided a process for museums and federal agencies to return human remains and cultural items to Indigenous communities.

2000s: Recognition and Reconciliation

1. Violence Against Women Act (2005, 2013): Included provisions for tribal jurisdiction over non-Indigenous perpetrators of domestic violence on reservations.
2. Cobell Settlement (2009): A class-action lawsuit over the mismanagement of Indian trust funds resulted in a $3.4 billion settlement, addressing historical grievances.

2010s: Cultural Revitalization and Environmental Advocacy

1. Standing Rock (2016): The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, citing threats to water and sacred sites. The protest garnered national and international attention.
2. Bears Ears National Monument (2016): Established to protect sacred lands in Utah, though its size was significantly reduced by the subsequent administration, leading to legal battles.

2020s: Continuing Challenges and Progress

1. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG): Growing awareness and advocacy around the high rates of violence against Indigenous women, with federal and state initiatives aiming to address this crisis.
2. COVID-19 Pandemic: Indigenous communities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but tribal nations demonstrated resilience and effective response strategies.
3. Land Back Movement: Increasing efforts to return land to Indigenous stewardship, emphasizing environmental protection and cultural connection.

 

KEY THEMES + ISSUES

Sovereignty and Self-Determination:

The ongoing struggle for political and legal recognition of tribal sovereignty, self-governance, and control over lands and resources.

Cultural Revitalization:

Efforts to preserve and revitalize Indigenous languages, traditions, and cultural practices, often supported by tribal and community programs.

Legal and Policy Advocacy:

Continued legal battles for treaty rights, land claims, and protection of sacred sites, alongside advocacy for policy changes to address health, education, and economic disparities.

Environmental Stewardship:

Indigenous leadership in environmental justice and climate change movements, emphasizing traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable practices.

Education and Awareness:

Growing emphasis on educating the public about Indigenous histories and contemporary issues, supported by initiatives in schools, museums, and media.

The last century of Indigenous history in the United States reflects a dynamic interplay of struggle, resilience, and progress. Despite significant challenges, Indigenous peoples have continuously fought for their rights, cultural preservation, and self-determination, contributing to a broader understanding and appreciation of their histories and contemporary issues.

WAYS THAT WE CAN SUPPORT INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AS AN ALLY

 

1. LISTENING + LEARNING: Actively listening to Indigenous voices, stories, and experiences to understand the historical trauma and systemic issues impacting mental health within Indigenous communities.

 

2. AMPLIFYING INDIGENOUS VOICES: Using their platform and privilege to amplify Indigenous voices, perspectives, and initiatives aimed at addressing mental health disparities and promoting cultural resilience.

 

3. RESPECTING INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE: Respecting and valuing Indigenous knowledge systems, healing practices, and cultural traditions related to mental wellness, and advocating for their integration into mental health services.

 

4. ADVOCATING FOR SYSTEMIC CHANGE: Advocating for policy changes and systemic reforms that address the root causes of mental health disparities in Indigenous communities, including issues related to healthcare access, education, housing, and economic opportunities.

 

5. SUPPORTING INDIGENOUS-LED INITIATIVES: Supporting Indigenous-led mental health initiatives, organizations, and programs that prioritize Indigenous self-determination, community empowerment, and cultural revitalization.

 

6. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS: Building respectful and reciprocal relationships with Indigenous individuals and communities based on trust, collaboration, and solidarity.

 

7. CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES + BIASES: Challenging stereotypes, misconceptions, and biases about Indigenous peoples and mental health within their own circles and advocating for greater cultural competency and sensitivity in mental health practice and research.

 

8. BEING ACCOUNTABLE + RESPONSIVE: Being accountable for their actions and responses to Indigenous mental health issues, acknowledging mistakes, and actively working to address and rectify harm.

 

Overall, being an Indigenous ally involves a commitment to ongoing education, advocacy, and action to support Indigenous mental health and well-being in ways that are respectful, empowering, and culturally responsive.

RESOURCES:

 

1. National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Policy Research Center: They provide reports and resources on various health issues, including mental health, affecting Indigenous communities in the United States.

 

2. Indigenous Health Today: This online platform offers articles, research summaries, and resources specifically focused on Indigenous health topics, including mental health.

 

3. Indigenous Wellness Research Institute: Based at the University of Washington, this institute conducts research and provides resources on Indigenous mental health and wellness, with a focus on strengths-based approaches and community-driven solutions.

 

4. Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health (CAIANH): Located at the Colorado School of Public Health, CAIANH conducts research and provides resources on various health issues, including mental health, affecting Indigenous communities.

 

5. Academic journals: There are several academic journals dedicated to Indigenous health and mental health research, such as the International Journal of Indigenous Health, American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, and the Journal of Indigenous Social Development.

 

These resources offer valuable insights into the challenges faced by Indigenous communities regarding mental health and the efforts being made to address them. If you have any thoughts or questions about this page, feel free to contact me on the CONTACT page with the subject line: Indigenous Mental Health.

SOURCES:

A look at Indigenous Mental Health by Shannon Craig, Eli's Place Website, March 8 2021 <https://www.elisplace.org/behind-the-headlines-a-look-at-indigenous-mental-health>
First Nations Health Authority website, Our History Our Health, <https://www.fnha.ca/wellness/wellness-for-first-nations/our-history-our-health>

First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum implementation, <https://thunderbirdpf.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/FNMWC_Implementation-Guide_EN_WEB.pdf>

Indigenous Health Today, <https://ihtoday.ca>

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