June is National Indigenous History Month, a time to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples.

In this issue of The Kidney Quarterly, we highlight several projects and initiatives focused on improving the kidney health of Indigenous peoples. We are committed to working with Indigenous patient partners, Knowledge Keepers, community leaders, academics, and health care providers to ensure the best kidney health outcomes, while ensuring Indigenous knowledge and perspectives are reflected across our research projects and governance.

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Knowledge bundle enables lifelong learning about Indigenous cultures and experiences

The Wabishki Bizhiko Skaanj learning pathway has been an exemplary tool in helping non-Indigenous people learn about cultural competency within the context of the Can-SOLVE CKD Network and beyond. Now, the final marker in the learning pathway is slated to be launched, in time for National Indigenous History month.

The first markers within the pathway provide learners with a general overview of the rich histories, cultures and ways of knowing, being and doing of First Nations, Inuit and Métis from across Kaná:ta (“town” in Kanien’kéha or Mohawk language) or what is now called Canada. The markers also provide learners with important guidance on how to engage respectfully and equitably with Indigenous communities. But while these learnings are really important first steps that non-Indigenous people can take towards building cultural competency, learning is a continuous process that does not stop here.

For this reason, the final marker of Wabishki Bizhiko Skaanj is a cultural competency knowledge bundle that encourages continuous learning into the future. It comprises a list of useful resources that learners can review at their own pace, ranging from academic articles and books to podcasts to YouTube videos.

“It’s another way, another space, for Indigenous research, Indigenous experience, Indigenous stories to be shared more within the kidney community,” explains Craig Settee, who is Cree/Anishinaabe and member of Fisher River Cree Nation (Treaty 5 Territory), and coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples’ Research Council (IPERC) at Can-SOLVE CKD. Settee compiled the list of resources, with consultation from members of IPERC, and intends to continue to add to the knowledge bundle over time.

Settee notes that when researchers and health care workers educate themselves about the land they are on, as well as on matters of cultural competency, this can in turn help them better serve Indigenous people within the health care system and research arena.

“I think it’s important for people to always be striving to be knowledgeable about the lands and Indigenous territories we all live on,” Settee emphasizes. “It’s important for nephrologists and researchers in the kidney community to take that in stride with all of the research and clinical practice that they’re doing, to bring that along with them.”

He considers this last marker as a type of bundle, which is often a collection of ceremonial items that hold important teachings from his Nation. “This compilation of resources could be viewed as a bundle as well – it’s a knowledge bundle,” explains Settee. “People can use what’s in that bundle and apply it to their practice and research, to their life.”

“It’s another way, another space, for Indigenous research, Indigenous experience, Indigenous stories to be shared more within the kidney community.”

Craig Settee

Cultural Competency Manager, Can-SOLVE CKD Network

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IPERC mobilizes Indigenous voices and approaches

The Indigenous Peoples’ Engagement and Research Council (IPERC) guides Can-SOLVE CKD’s activities to account for the unique aspects of patient-oriented research involving First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.

“We work with the network to develop resources (which help to) support culturally competent engagement with Indigenous peoples and communities,” says IPERC Coordinator Craig Settee.

As one of two governing bodies within the Can-SOLVE CKD Network, its members are involved in numerous aspects of the network. Indigenous representation from IPERC can be felt throughout the network, including the Can-SOLVE CKD Executive Committee, which recently welcomed two new Indigenous members, Dr. Malcolm King and Mary Beaucage.

IPERC members come from Indigenous territories and nations from all over Canada including Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, Inuvialuit, Anishinaabe, Cree and Métis.

Panikpak (Letitia) Pokiak, who is Inuvaluit from Tuktuuyaqtuuq, a small town on the Arctic Ocean in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, notes the importance of sharing distinct Inuit experiences.

“Creating space for Métis, First Nations or Inuit voices and experiences changes the narrative of our collective colonial history and the impacts felt by Indigenous communities,” says Letitia.

Métis representation is similarly important, says IPERC co-chair and patient partner Arlene Desjarlais.

“I can freely say that I’m living as a Métis person who is learning about herself and her culture and the world around her,” says Desjarlais. “And that specifically is what Can-SOLVE CKD has brought into my life, specifically IPERC.”

IPERC’s work supports several of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action related to health, including #18 (acknowledging the impact of historical traumas on Indigenous health), #19 (working to close the gaps in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities), and #23 (developing cultural safety training for research team members).

Settee notes that these mandates are important to implement and uphold. “Cultural safety within our Canadian health care network is important to acknowledge because systemic racism is a very real and present issue for Indigenous peoples,” he says.

One of IPERC’s key initiatives is Wabishki Bizhiko Skaanj (wah-bish-kih biish-ih-goo skaa-nch), a learning pathway that aims to enhance researchers’ knowledge and awareness of racial biases, Indigenous voices and stories, the impact of colonization on Indigenous health, and culturally safe health research practices.

IPERC engages and amplifies Indigenous peoples and works to bring unique perspectives and voices to the Can-SOLVE CKD Network.

“Committees such as IPERC provide opportunities to build the capacity of kidney research that involves the health of our Indigenous Peoples,” says Letitia. “This committee (IPERC) is a great framework to model, as it mobilizes Indigenous voices and approaches to research.”

IPERC is currently seeking members to join the council and share voices and experiences as patient partners (Indigenous CKD patients, kidney donors, caregivers). To learn more about this engagement opportunity, or for more information in general, please contact IPERC Coordinator Craig Settee at csettee@cansolveckd.ca

“Creating space for Métis, First Nations or Inuit voices and experiences changes the narrative of our collective colonial history and the impacts felt by Indigenous communities."

Panikpak (Leticia) Pokiak

Member, Indigenous Peoples' Engagement and Research Council

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Remembering Howard Vincent and striving for reconciliation

Many people remember Howard Vincent as a colourful person, both literally and figuratively.

He was well known for his bright coloured hair – in vibrant hues of the rainbow – and for speaking his mind openly to others without feeling the need to sugar coat it. Just as he was quick to drop a joke, he was always quick to speak the hard truth.

As an Indigenous man, Howard experienced a difficult life as a result of the 60s Scoop and other harmful aspects of colonialization in Canada. At the first Can-SOLVE CKD meeting in 2016, he shared some of his experiences with many members of the network, and also wasn’t afraid to discuss challenging topics such as white privilege. For a network with many non-Indigenous people who are striving to achieve Truth and Reconciliation, Howard was the perfect person to guide us on our learning path.

“He was just very outspoken about his beliefs and ideals,” recalls Catherine Turner, Can-SOLVE CKD Indigenous Liaison Manager. “It was important for him to speak the truth about inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples in health care, and in other areas as well.”
Howard passed away in May 2020, but his contributions to Can-SOLVE CKD are remembered to this day. One year after his passing, the network established the Howard Vincent Reconciliation Award in his honor.

“[An eligible nominee would be a non-Indigenous] individual who is humble in their approach to learn the truth and to look for ways to reconcile with Indigenous individuals, groups, and communities through the work that they do,” explains Turner. “Somebody who is open acknowledging and respecting Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.”

Turner suggested the idea of the award on the anniversary of Howard’s passing, and last September the first Howard Vincent Reconciliation Award was presented to Dr. Joanne Kappel, a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan who has taken significant steps in her Truth and Reconciliation journey.

Howard Vincent contributes to a discussion at the 2017 Can-SOLVE CKD Annual Meeting

“I was humbled to receive the Howard Vincent Reconciliation Award in 2021,” says Kappel. “Howard inspired all of us in the Can-SOLVE CKD Network to reflect critically, to really listen with our heart and mind, to respect one another’s opinion, to have uncomfortable conversations and to be a force for change.”

Kappel has a number of tips that non-Indigenous people can take in working towards Truth and Reconciliation, including learning about Indigenous history, the Residential School System and intergenerational trauma; identifying and acknowledging the territory on which you live; and respecting Indigenous individuals, beliefs, cultures, ceremonies, languages, and traditions.

“Reconciliation is not a box to be ticked; it is not a single action; it is not a competition for someone to win; it is not someone else’s responsibility,” she emphasizes.

Nominations are now open for the 2022 Howard Vincent Reconciliation Award. Please click the following link to submit your nomination: https://forms.office.com/r/TmZUqgdMhC If you have any questions please contact Catherine Turner at: cturner@cansolveckd.ca. The awardee will be gifted with a drum made by Howard’s family. Notably, a drum represents a circle, which is unbroken and has no hierarchy.

“Reconciliation is not a box to be ticked; it is not a single action; it is not a competition for someone to win; it is not someone else’s responsibility."

Dr. Joanne Kappel

2021 Howard Vincent Reconciliation Award Recipient

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