On our trip to Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, we began our journey touring a home which is off-the-grid and made from natural and recycled materials, referred to as an “Earthship”. Next, we were lucky enough to learn about land claims, treaties, the Six Nations Elected Council’s governing structure and the policy making process when we were welcomed to their Council Chambers.
Following these amazing activities (and to our absolute delight) we were treated to a traditional Haudenosaunee lunch courtesy of Traditional Roots. All of the food was harvested locally and would have been food eaten “pre-contact” by local First Nations. Not to mention – it was mouth wateringly delicious.
This was not only a history lesson mixed with sustenance, but a segway into a much deeper conversation revolving around the work accomplished on a daily basis by Six Nations Health Services, the largest department under Six Nations Elected Council. We were met by Lori Davis Hill (Director of Health) and some of her management team; ranging anywhere from those in charge of implementing Mental Health initiatives in the community, to those implementing traditional Aboriginal Midwifery for community members.
After hearing the testimonials of the struggles these program administrators faced, the saddest reality we all came to quickly realize was their jobs were not simply administering programming, or ensuring their staff were providing the best health care, but that they provided a strong community-based social service, as well as one of the largest social issues faced is food security as a result of poverty. Health research focused on First Nations communities in Canada has shown that “health disparities are directly and indirectly associated with or related to social, economic, cultural and political inequalities; the end result of which is a disproportionate burden of ill health and social suffering of the Aboriginal populations of Canada” (Adelson, 2005).
One example of this that really hit home for the interns was when we were asked, “How am I supposed to provide nutritional advice to a pregnant mother for her baby, when she does not have the money to buy groceries, her own house to live in, and is being abused? There is much more I have to do for her at that moment, in order to do both my job and help my community more broadly”.
It was really earth-shattering for us to learn of the social struggles facing the communities in our own backyards and we are committed to ensuring that each year, our intern successors have the same learning opportunities that we have had here.
To learn about how you can help those suffering from food insecurity, please visit http://www.sixnationsfoodbank.com/howtogetinvolved/donate.html