June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, a time to recognize and respect, while learning about, the diverse cultures and history of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in BC. While this work does not start or end in June every year, it is a time to highlight the difficult history and truths, as well as the dedication of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous commitments to moving toward a Canada where we reconcile, build trust, take action, collaborate, and foster equity.

Grounding documents such as the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act are pivotal in our work today, as we have a responsibility to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples in all that we do. With this commitment, one of the ways we are working towards our goals of Truth, Reconciliation, anti-Indigenous racism, justice, and equity is through a unique project led by Chee Mamukthe self-determining Indigenous-led program within the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), an organization of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). This project focuses on helping to build trust and address inequities with Indigenous communities across the province through the creation of Kloshe Nanitch medicine bundles.

Kloshe Nanitch means “take care” in Chinook Jargon, used as a trade language between First Nations, Métis, Inuit and early settlers and traders. This is precisely what these bundles strive to do. They take care of health and wellness needs in Indigenous communities throughout the province.

Because gifting is such an important way to show respect in many Indigenous cultures, these bundles build trust and reciprocity, demonstrating care and love as people connect in relationships and understanding. This approach to health and wellness may look very different from how Western cultures might traditionally view population health. It is about supporting the spirit first, before the body can heal.

Co-designed with Indigenous communities across the province, the bundles support a full spectrum of peoples’ lived experiences. They meet practical needs providing important cultural and health information and resources — by weaving together Indigenous and Western health and wellness resources that support people who are dealing with realities like food security, unstable housing, or substance use. They also fulfill spiritual needs by including healing herbs and traditional medicines such as Sage and Sweetgrass, as well as messages of kindness, hope, and resilience.

Kloshe Nanitch bundles have been assembled and distributed to communities across BC, including northern BC, Vancouver Island and the North Coast, the Interior, and the Lower Mainland. The bundles have been successfully received, due in part to gifting being so culturally understood. They have been quickly picked up and continue to be requested in high demand by communities. “There was Naloxone and stuff [in the bundles],” said one participant. “And that opened up the conversation, maybe we should start having Naloxone workshops…”

This important initiative will enable the team to build and distribute more bundles, where and when they are needed most, particularly in remote and hard to reach regions. The contents of the bundles will continue to evolve to reflect needs, as determined by the people working, living, and sharing experiences in their communities across the province.

The act of reaching out to Indigenous communities with bundles of support, hope and healing is a small step in our work towards Truth and Reconciliation. The historical and ongoing colonization and oppression of Indigenous Peoples has created a pervasive lack of trust in government and related institutions, including public health. It has created ongoing health and socioeconomic disparities, poorer health outcomes, and extensive inequities. Building that trust and addressing these inequities will take hard work and collaboration with Indigenous communities, with a focus on thoughtful public health initiatives rooted in respect. These bundles are helping strengthen the relationships and trust with Indigenous communities — promoting better health practices across populations — while advancing crucial transformation in how Western-based health models adapt and authentically support Indigenous people and their healthcare journeys.

The Foundation envisions a safer, healthier, and more equitable future for all and we have a long track record of engaging and investing in innovative, collaborative, and evidence-based initiatives that improve population health. We will continue to collaborate with our valued partners across the province to invest in projects like this, which address harms and inequities, promote health and well-being, and build relations, cooperation, and a new way of thinking and healing together.

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