In December 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission produced its final report into the history and legacy of Canada's residential school system with 94 calls to action.
Several of those calls to action focused on health with one specifically requesting that nursing schools in Canada require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues.
To that end, the Faculty of Nursing established an Indigenous initiatives portfolio in 2017 with the intent of integrating Indigenous history into the curriculum, ensuring faculty educators recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and understand Aboriginal rights and educating more Indigenous students.
Wall art creates brave space for Indigenous nursing students
The Gathering Space is meant to be a place for Indigenous nursing students to study, regroup, and connect, and its corner location on the lower level of the Professional Faculties Building is unassuming.
In January 2019, Blackfoot artist Kalum Teke Dan painted a mural that, according to Heather Bensler, co-director of Indigenous initiatives in the Faculty of Nursing, will inspire not only the Indigenous community, but anyone who ventures into the space.
“I like the idea of a brave space, a space where students and faculty are encouraged to risk, to connect and to have meaningful conversations,” says Bensler. “It's meant to be a safe space for our Indigenous students, where they can smudge, connect with an elder, find resources, and it’s also a space for our growing team of nursing students interested in Indigenous Initiatives as they grow in their role in ‘reconcili-action’ and as allies.”
TRC call-to-action a springboard for change
The Faculty of Nursing's path toward Indigenization focuses on cultural safety and helping vulnerable populations.
Cultural safety includes practices that recognize and respect the unique cultural identity of Indigenous people. The goal is to offer health care that protects and empowers them when they are ill.
Read the interview with our Indigenous Initiatives co-directors Louise Baptiste and Heather Bensler, BN’96. Baptiste’s role is student support and community outreach while Bensler is focused on curriculum and faculty development.