Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Geography

Supervisor

Chantelle Richmond

Abstract

In this dissertation, I present the findings of a community-based participatory research project with the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (SOAHAC). Embracing a decolonizing methodology that draws upon strengths-based and intersectional approaches, I qualitatively explore the relationships between health, culture and place among urban First Nations men living in the city of London, Ontario.

Indigenous cultures are broadly defined as a “systems of belief, values, customs, and traditions that are transmitted from generation to generation through teachings, ecological knowledge and time-honoured land-based practices” (McIvor & Napoleon, p. 6). Culture is increasingly recognized as an important determinant of Indigenous health and well-being. Yet the processes by which this relationship occurs have not been critically explored among urban First Nations men. It is precisely these processes that I seek to explore within this dissertation as my overarching research question.

Presented as a series of manuscripts, this dissertation has four research objectives:

1) To explore meanings of health among urban First Nations men living in London, Ontario;

2) To explore perceptions of culture among urban First Nations men living in London, Ontario;

3) To explore the relationship between health and culture among urban First Nations men living in London, Ontario;

4) To explore the benefits and challenges of working within a cross-cultural research relationship within a community-based participatory research project.

The theoretical objectives of this research draw upon conversations with 13 urban First Nations men. Within these conversations, social connection, land and culture are identified as important determinants of wholistic health and well-being, particularly through their ability to provide a sense of belonging. These determinants and the experiences of belonging within them are intricately connected to the men’s traditional territories and reserve communities, and profoundly shaped by historical and ongoing processes of colonization. Colonial processes are further found to have created an uneasy relationship between the men and their cultures. This is exemplified by experiences of culture change, racism, and lateral violence that challenge the men’s ability to practice their cultures.

The methodological objective of this dissertation is explored in a manuscript co-written with Erik Mandawe, a First Nations research assistant hired to contribute to the decolonizing approach of this thesis. In this manuscript, we discuss the importance of relationships made within the research processes, and how these relationships contributed to our personal stories of reconciliation.

I conclude this dissertation with a discussion of its major contributions, framed by four consistent themes within the theoretical and methodological findings: colonization, sense of belonging, intersectionality, and reconciliation. I propose that the space within which these themes converge provides a valuable lens to apply to research that explores the relationships between health, culture and place among urban First Nations men.

Available for download on Sunday, December 31, 2017


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