An Introduction from the Author:
In working in any area of the human services field there is a need for cultural consideration, to ensure cultural safety in the work that we do. With the large First Nations population in British Columbia, when working in the fields of medicine, mental health, addictions, child welfare, community supports and so on, chances are we will be providing services to Indigenous peoples. Historically, the services provided in Canada have been driven by Western culture and have left little room for the knowledge and expertise that enabled Indigenous peoples to survive and thrive for centuries, before being grossly interrupted by European settlers and colonization. To date, there has been a misinterpretation of Indigenous ways of doing things, and a lack of respect and regard for anything that exists outside of Western society’s norms. However, this creates the assumption that Westernized services are appropriate for everyone, when in actual fact they can be quite oppressive and harmful.
My name is Hannah Sparkes and I am currently living and learning on the traditional, unceded territory of the Musqueam First Nations, or what is now known as the University of British Columbia (UBC). In completing my Masters of Social Work at UBC, two other classmates and I were given the opportunity to research the cultural methods of parenting for the Indigenous peoples of Campbell River, BC and surrounding areas. The purpose of our study was to help the local department of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) better understand the Indigenous population they work with, and in turn, inform culturally safe child welfare practices.
In order to find out what parenting looks like from an Indigenous perspective, our research team met with eleven Elders from the area, as they are seen and respected as experts of their community. After meeting and building relationships with the Elders we completed two days of focus group and individual interviews, during which we captured what parenting and child-development means to them. Based on this shared wisdom and knowledge, we put together a framework that MCFD and the community as a whole, can use as a guide for working specifically with the Indigenous children and families of Campbell River and surrounding areas.
Through our research, we found that Indigenous culture is very diverse. Within the First Nations population, each Nation and band is unique and should not be generalized. As service providers, it is important to recognize that just because an intervention might be appropriate for one First Nation’s group, it might not necessarily work for another. Therefore, the framework we created may not be a reflection of First Nations peoples who reside outside of our area of interest, however, our methods of research can be replicated to inform studies with other Indigenous groups. We also found that when working with Indigenous peoples you need to be aware of the impact that colonization and intergenerational trauma has had, and continues to have, on their lives and communities as a whole.
Finally, there is a need for service providers to consider personal bias in service delivery and remember that each person you work with is the expert of their own life. There needs to be respect for cultural ways of healing, such as ceremony and connecting with nature, which was the case for the Indigenous peoples of Campbell River. We must remember that as services providers in any area of the human services field, it is our responsibility to alter our approach to meet the needs of anyone we work with, rather than trying to fit everyone into the rigidly constructed boxes that our society has created.