Medicine Wheel 2000 by June Kaminski, 2000Before solutions can be created, problems and inhibitory forces need to be identified. The simple truth of the matter is, that the Aboriginal people of this planet suffer from higher risk factors, lower well being statistics, and much higher illness and morbidity/mortality rates when compared to the mainstream (mostly colonist or post-colonist) populations. The forces that have led to this iniexcusable context for health and well-being have been mentioned in the previous section: notably colonization itself, and the resultant culturecide, genocide, isolation to reservation lands, residential schools, and the attempt to assimilate all surviving indigenous people into the colonizing culture. Canada's history is stained from such atrocities, and continues to share the shameful plight of its First Peoples with the rest of the world's colonized countries.

One of the most important facts to remember is that before colonization, First Nations people in Canada were basically very healthy. "Aboriginal people in Canada were in good health upon the arrival of Europeans, as confirmed in various historical documents. A "special" relationship was established between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown concerning the provision of health care. The effects of colonization and other policies, like the residential school and Indian Act, have, over the years, eroded the traditional way of life for many Aboriginal persons. This erosion has had a negative impact on the health and well-being of individuals, their families and communities." (1. Health Council of Canada, 2005, p. 3) .

The mere arrival of colonist peoples influenced the health of the First Peoples. Strange diseases caused massive deaths, particularly infectious diseases such as polio, influenza, measles, smallpox, diptheria, and tuberculosis. According to anthropologists, precolonial First Nations people did not have contact with any of these diseases prior to colonization. They rarely exhibited cancer, virtually no skin tumors, no foot problems such as fallen arches, very few mental disorders, remarkably healthy bones and teeth, and very strong constitutions.

Determinants of Health

Primal Lake by June Kaminski, 2007Health determinants are considered important indicators of health for all individuals. First Nations people have the lowest levels of health determinant fulfillment in Canada, and in most countries across the globe.

It is evident, that all of these factors considered as a whole weave a dismal picture of the health of First Nations people. Of course, there are exceptions. There are communities who have leaders who are devoted to improving the health and well-being of their community members, and who embrace the concept of self governance in earnest. They realize that they need to provide education and health support, beginning with early childhood that fuels the sense of self and recognition of the beauty and strength of their traditional ways to encourage powerful growth and development in their young ones. These initiatives will be further addressed on the next page on Self Governance

1. Health Council of Canada (January, 2005). The health status of Canada's First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. A background paper to accompany Health Care Renewal in Canada: Accelerating Change. Ottawa: Author.

Supportive Organizations

National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO)
An Aboriginal-designed and -controlled body committed to influencing and advancing the health and well-being of Aboriginal Peoples by carrying out knowledge-based strategies.

Indigenous Health Research Development Program (IHRDP)
The portal for accessing the documentaries and outcomes of the International Indigenous Elders Summit. The IHRDP and the National Aboriginal Health Organization, along with the Amazon Conservation Team, have signed a letter of intent to explore possible collaborations and exchanges between Indigenous Elders and healers from North and South America.

Indigenous Cooperative on the Environment (ICE)
A network of Indigenous organizations working in the environmental arena. Site includes information and resources on traditional practices and Indigenous knowledge.

Many Hands, One Dream
This initiative is directed by a group of 11 national organizations concerned with the health and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and youth: including the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis National Council, Health Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, National Aboriginal Health Organization, National Association of Friendship Centres, and so on.

Relevant Facts and Research

The Journal of Aboriginal Health
Published by the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO), the Journal of Aboriginal Health was established with the intention of fostering a dynamic community of people concerned with issues of Aboriginal health.

BC First Nations Health Guide
Health issues affecting First Nations people in British Columbia are unique.The culture, language, history, determinants of health, and health issues within First Nations communities all contribute to this uniqueness.The purpose of this document is to begin to address the health crisis of First Nations, acknowledge the unique health status of First Nations and share resources to aid the process of self-determination with respect to health.

Assembly of First Nations
AFN is the national representative organization of the First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation's communities in Canada. The AFN Secretariat, is designed to present the views of the various First Nations through their leaders in areas such as: Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, Economic Development, Education, Languages and Literacy, Health, Housing, Social Development, Justice, Taxation, Land Claims, Environment, and a whole array of issues that are of common concern which arise from time to time.