Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Geography

Supervisor

Dr. Chantelle Richmond and Dr. Isaac Luginaah

Abstract

Research shows that Indigenous connection to land carries important health benefits. Amongst Anishinaabe peoples, the land is the foundation for Indigenous Knowledge and central to physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health. Today, many of the most pressing health inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples are shaped by historic and on-going processes of environmental dispossession. This dissertation was framed by a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach conducted in collaboration with two Anishinaabe communities on Lake Superior (Ontario, Canada), the greater goal being to develop strategies of environmental repossession. Developed around three manuscripts, this thesis addressed four objectives:

1) to examine the strengths and challenges of applying CBPR within the context of Indigenous health research;

2) to identify the impacts of both historical and on-going experiences of environmental dispossession upon community health;

3) to explore Elders' approaches for resisting environmental dispossession and maintaining their connections with traditional lands;

4) to apply an integrated knowledge translation methodology towards developing strategies for environmental repossession.

Informed by in-depth interviews with Elders (n=46), this thesis opens with a methodological chapter that reviews how CBPR approaches applied in the context of Indigenous health research can be successful when founded upon notions of respect and reciprocity. Drawing from the Elders' narratives, the following two empirical chapters further reveal that Elders' access to their traditional lands and Indigenous Knowledge base have been negatively impacted by various processes of environmental dispossession, including Residential Schools and environmental contamination. Elders' strategies for resisting these negative impacts and maintaining strong connections with their traditional lands and resources include the development of cultural camps and the planting of community gardens. In focus groups and talking circle discussions, community Elders' ideas about best strategies for practicing environmental repossession and preserving Indigenous Knowledge focused squarely on increasing opportunities for Elders and youth to connect, both in social settings and out on the land.

Overall, this dissertation demonstrates an applied process through which Indigenous communities can use research to begin to lay the groundwork for process of environmental repossession. While CBPR approaches may not, in and of themselves, directly reduce health inequity, these approaches are well suited for mobilizing the sorts of local action that will lead to improved health.


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