This edition of ADD will discuss in more detail the historic impacts of colonization and residential schools on our people. I thank Mrs. Brenda Reynolds, an Indigenous knowledge keeper, for her contribution of an article to discuss this topic in more depth. Brenda was rightfully awarded the AMA Medal of Honor and is one of the bravest people I know. She faced persecution after uncovering multi-generation sexual abuse at Gordon’s Indian Residential School. Brenda ran an after-school program where she supported young Indigenous students and brought them to safety after years of abuse. In her article she shares her wealth of life experience.
The authors in this edition are my mentors and my teachers. I strive to be a better person and a better physician every day, guided by the path they have carved out.
In Tibetha Kemble (Stonechild)’s story, The (dis)honor of the Crown, we will further explore the failure of Canada to implement the treaty (“keep its side of the street”) and the impacts we see in the health outcomes of Indigenous peoples. Tibetha is a former director at the Indigenous Health Initiative Program at the University of Alberta and won a teaching award educating medical students on Indigenous health. I thank her for adding her voice. Her personal reflection is honest and eye-opening.
There is a network of amazing Indigenous physicians across this province working to make a difference in Indigenous health. Three physicians leading the way are Dr. Cassandra Felske-Durksen, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers and Dr. Alika Lafontaine. In her poignant piece, Dr. Cassandra Felske-Durksen reflects on Indian hospitals. Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, with the help of our ally Dr. Amy Gausvik, updates us on the changes in Indigenous health at Alberta Health Services. They have led a team working to eliminate barriers and offer Virtual Care Clinics to Indigenous patients across Alberta. Further, Dr. Alika Lafontaine eloquently speaks to the doctors of Alberta. He offers encouragement that is needed, as it is so critical that physicians find and use their voice to bring deeper awareness to these issues.
This edition includes a contribution from a team of national leading researchers, Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe, Dr. Cheryl Barnabe, Dr. Rita Henderson and Anika Sehgal. I encourage you to look further into the amazing work from this team, including a research network for improving primary health care that is shifting the landscape for Indigenous peoples.
When I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges before us, I find hope in working with students such as Nicole Labine. Her contribution is an eye-opening article from a medical student’s perspective. We must continue to advocate for increasing the numbers of Indigenous peoples in health care careers.
In their co-written article, Indigenous Nurse Navigator Arrow Big Smoke and Community Health Coordinator Patricia Yellow Horn describe how rising rates of late-stage cancer in Indigenous patients led to their collaboration on a new, in-community information session. Through this and similar creative health service adaptations, Arrow and Patricia are seeing the beginnings of an evolution in health care for Inuit, Métis and First Nations people.
If this edition is a springboard and you want to learn more, then we have achieved our goal. There is further information included in an article about Indigenous Cultural Competency for health care providers by Simon Ross at Alberta Health Services. All physicians in Alberta are required to complete the AHS training on Indigenous Cultural Competency and we encourage you to do so. We have also provided a recommended reading list.
I would like to express my gratitude to the AMA for supporting the Indigenous Health Committee in the development of this Indigenous health edition of ADD. The IHC is working on many initiatives to improve the health of our people; a timeline of our committee’s and the AMA’s work has been included. For more information, you can visit the IHC website and read the AMA Policy Statement on Indigenous health, the basis of our guiding principles. Thank you as well to Alicia Hibbert (Edified Projects), our Indigenous editor, for her knowledge and support.
In this Indigenous health issue of ADD, the AMA is officially releasing a video filmed at Saddle Lake Cree Nation. Dr. Nicole Cardinal is a physician from Saddle Lake who imparts knowledge on building relationships with Indigenous peoples. Thank you to Dr. Cardinal and Eric Large, a former Saddle Lake Cree Nation Chief and Band Counsellor, for sharing their stories and insight.
I hope you will read this issue of ADD and go forward knowing more than when you started. When we know more, we can no longer live our lives as if we have not heard the story of our first people. With this knowledge, we can move past systemic racism and systemic oppression to health equity and well-being.
Banner image: Community Health Coordinator, Patricia Yellow Horn (L) Indigenous Nurse Navigator, Arrow Big Smoke (R) from their story about Indigenous cancer care: How Times Have Changed