Indigenous Health


Photo of Miawpukek Mi'kamawey Mawi'omi First Nation reservation. The is a large grassy area, surrounded by a large river and lake within a valley.

Established in 2020, the Research Exchange Group on Indigenous Health is a forum where people meet to discuss issues related to Indigenous health research, policy and programming. The group connects researchers, community partners, clinicians, health system decision makers, those with an interest in this important applied health research topic. The group will promote equitable partnerships and honour traditional knowledge and be an avenue for Indigenous circle pedagogy, team and group work.

See Group Activities and Presentations

Group Convener 
  • Dr. Fred Andersen—Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Memorial University


Goals & Objectives 

The Research Exchange Group on Indigenous Health aims to:

  • Create community connection and collaborative opportunities for Indigenous peoples and Memorial University researchers, community activists, and stakeholders who want to explore ways to build Indigenous community research capacity
  • Respect Indigenous ways of knowing, Indigenous knowledge translation and mobilization
  • Facilitate the co-creation of community-based, community-driven research with, for, and by Indigenous communities
  • Promote Indigenous communities’ ways of knowing and healing
  • Promote anti-colonial practice and generate research that has a direct impact on Indigenous communities



Link to a compendium of resources on Indigenous health prepared by Quinn McGettigan for a Master's of Public Health practicum on behalf of the Research Exchange Group on Indigenous Health in September of 2022.  This is a living document that will be updated every 6 months.  Contact to make edits or additions to its contents.

Indigenous Health Compendium September 2022 by Quinn McGettigan

Group Activities & Presentations


December 19, 2023 | 1:30PM to 3:00pm Newfoundland Island Time |Update from Pallium Canada | Indigenous -Informed Training Modules in Palliative Care | In January of 2022, we welcomed a presentation by Indigenous Scholar Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux and by Mr. Jonathan Faulkner on behalf of Pallium Canada about a project  to create a learning module for Palliative Care Training that will be inclusive of Cultural Safety, Cultural Intelligence and Cultural Humility for the use and benefit of palliative care professionals working with Indigenous peoples in Canada. The team, aware that the sharing of Indigenous knowledge and traditional practices is a sensitive and personal decision for every individual, launched the initiative in NL by opening up a dialogue and seeking guidance and suggestions from people who are currently working in, or directing palliative care, as they began the process of engaging with communities directly through online and in-person discussions. This follow-up meeting covers the balance of the learning modules for this project. Dr. Wesley Esquimaux and Jonathan Faulkner share the outcomes of their in-person visits with communities in Labrador to complete interviews and the results of some interviews which were conducted online.  They note that this work requires the building of trust and engagement, which takes time and patience and are they were ultimately able to gain confidence and support for the project among people living in Indigenous communities and that nurses, in particular, were exceptional supporters of the learning process. | About our Presenters:  Dr. Cynthis Wesley-Esquimaux is a faculty member at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity and has maintained working relationships with several Canadian institutions and corporations across Canada.  Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux served as Vice Provost Indigenous Initiatives at Lakehead University for three years and was appointed as the 1st Indigenous Chair for Truth and Reconciliation for Lakehead University in 2016. Cynthia was inducted as an “Honourary Witness” by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2014 and is Chair of the Governing Circle for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. She is a member and resident of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation and has dedicated her life to building bridges of understanding. She sees endless merit in bringing people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds together to engage in practical dialogue and applied research initiatives.  Jonathan Faulkner, VP Operations, Pallium Canada | Pallium Canada is a national, non-profit organization focused on building professional and community capacity to help improve the quality and accessibility of palliative care in Canada. Pallium is a community of clinicians, educators, researchers, carers, administrators, volunteers, Indigenous leaders and citizen advocates working together to accelerate the integration of palliative care in Canadian communities and health care systems. Pallium was founded in Canada, by Canadians and in service to Canadian health care professionals, patients and families and communities. As VP Operations, Jonathan is responsible for the day-to-day leadership and general management at Pallium. Jonathan is excited to bring his 15 years of combined experience in health research, government administration, partnerships, and business development to help advance the palliative care approach in Canada.

 Friday, January 20, 2023 |12:30PM Newfoundland Island Time | Providing culturally safe healthcare in Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Services | Providing culturally safe healthcare is a priority within the Eastern Health Mental Health and Addictions Department. Jennifer O'Reilly, Regional Addictions Prevention Consultant at Eastern Health met with members of the Research Exchange Group on Indigenous Health to learn more about how to connect Eastern Health with Indigenous leaders and community partners to discuss how the EH Mental Health and Addictions Department can provide culturally safe health care, and improve mental health and addictions supports/service for Indigenous peoples in NL. During the meeting, Jennifer provided a short presentation highlighting some of Eastern Health’s priority areas for beginning to improve mental health and addictions supports and services for Indigenous peoples in NL, as well as the vision for the future of these services.


October 18, 2022 | The Indigenous Health Compendium Project | Quinn McGettigan completed her Master’s of Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University in August 2022 with a practicum project at the NL Centre for Applied Health Research conducted on behalf of our Research Exchange Group on Indigenous Health. For the Indigenous Heath Compendium Project, Quinn gathered and organized information about existing academic research, government, health system and community organizations, programs and related resources that are designed to support Indigenous health and well-being in Newfoundland & Labrador.

The project involved consultations with Dr. Fred Andersen, the convener of the Research Exchange Group on Indigenous Health, a series of interviews with partners working in community, university, and healthcare sectors, and online and library searches for resources and information. The Indigenous Health Compendium includes organizations, programs, data sources, research and related resources in the area of Indigenous health and is organized into chapters on: Indigenous community organizations and resources; academic research and resources; and government/health system programs and resources. Each section includes a brief description of the resource and hyperlinks to more information. Since it is a snapshot of pre-existing, publicly-available information, and since Indigenous health is an ever-evolving field, the compendium should be considered as a living document.  We recognize that Quinn’s work does not include every Indigenous health and wellness resource/ initiative taking place in the province, but we are hopeful that you, as the members of this group, will continue to provide your feedback and insights so that we can keep the information fresh and updated.  Ultimately, Quinn’s work was intended to provide a useful place to start for any community partners, healthcare providers and academic researchers seeking to locate information about resources and contacts in Newfoundland and Labrador that are related to Indigenous health and well-being. Indigenous Health Compendium September 2022 by Quinn McGettigan


March 25, 2022 at 1:00PM NST | The Innu Midwifery Project:Restoring Midwifery and Community Birth Thea Penashue, Gisela Becker, June Fry, Kathleen Cranfield
This presentation will tell the progress made to reintroduce midwifery to Sheshatshiu and Natuashish in Labrador, drawing on Innu Elders’ knowledge of Innu birthing practices, to support the training of Innu midwives using a culturally specific, hands-on, and individually paced learning approach. We will describe how restoring midwifery to the Innu communities would result in Innu babies being born into Innu hands on Innu lands, fostering a greater connection to the land and culture, continuation of cultural practices and culturally safe care, and empowering women in the context of their childbearing experience. About our presenters: Thea Penashue is the Health Manager with the Innu Round Table Secretariat (IRT). Thea is also the Co-chair of the IRT Midwifery Steering Committee and advocates for the return of midwifery to the Innu communities of Labrador. She lives with her husband and two daughters in North West River, Labrador. Thea gave birth to her second daughter in a traditional Innu tent. Gisela Becker is a registered midwife and midwifery consultant with the Innu Round Table Secretariat in Labrador, and Chief Advisor for midwifery implementation with the Government of Prince Edward Island. Gisela is a past president of the Canadian Association of Midwives from 2009 to 2010 and represented Canadian midwifery at the International Confederation of Midwives Council in 2008 in Glasgow, Scotland, and 2011 in Durban, South Africa. Gisela held the position of the first Alberta Health Services Director of Midwifery Services and is a former Assistant Professor in the Midwifery Education Program at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Gisela was the Provincial Chief Midwife with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador from 2017 to 2020 and became the first registered midwife under the NL Health Profession Act. Gisela has many years of experience working in Indigenous and northern communities and a strong interest in research, data collection and program evaluation. June Fry is a BN, RN and in her 38th year of her nursing career. June has worked in a variety of positions from a staff nurse, Public Health Nurse, Head Nurse, Regional Nurse to Director of Nursing, Coordinating Instructor in Licensed Nursing programs, curriculum development for the Integrated Nursing Access Program for the Inuit of Labrador, Maternal Child Health Nurse with Health Canada, and the last 6 years working with the Innu Round Table Secretariat in Labrador, as the Innu Child Health Coordinator. June truly has loved all her nursing career positions, all came with their challenges and great satisfaction. June received the Excellence of Nursing Award in 2010 from First Nations and Inuit Health Branch for her work with the two Innu communities in Labrador. Kathleen Cranfield is a registered midwife in Fort Smith, NWT and a midwifery consultant with the Innu Round Table Secretariat in Labrador. Kathleen has been instrumental in bringing regulated midwifery services to the Yukon.

January 20, 2022 at 2:00pm NST | Presentation & discussion to inform a Pallium Canada project on palliative care for Indigenous Peoples in Labrador and in Newfoundland with Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux of Lakehead University | Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Ph.D., from the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, a professor at Lakehead University in Ontario, is working with a small team— Ms. Tareyn Johnson, MA, University of Ottawa, and Ana Gonzalez, MA Candidate, Lakehead University— under contract with Pallium Canada, to create a learning module inclusive of Cultural Safety, Cultural Intelligence and Cultural Humility for the use and benefit of palliative care professionals working with Indigenous peoples in Labrador and Newfoundland. The team is aware that there are already palliative care processes in place in this province and are not looking to disrupt any of the good work already being undertaken to care for and support Indigenous patients and their families. Rather, their intention is to build, through conversations with you— health directors, clinicians, caregivers, researchers, Indigenous community members and others, a learning platform where all can acquire an enhanced understanding of cultural approaches to palliative and end-of-life support. This team is aware that the sharing of Indigenous knowledge and traditional practices is a sensitive and personal decision for every individual. Therefore, they will appreciate any guidance and suggestions from those individuals who are currently working in, or directing palliative care, as they move forward to engage communities directly through online and in person (when possible) discussions. The intention of this gathering will be to engage in a dialogue with as many people as possible and to respect the knowledge and design suggestions offered as the team develops culturally-enhanced module content for Pallium Canada. About the presenter: Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux is a former Vice-Provost (Aboriginal Initiatives) at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay and Orillia where she is now the Indigenous Chair on Truth and Reconciliation. She held the Nexen Chair in Aboriginal Leadership at the Banff Centre in Alberta 2008-2013, and remains a faculty member on Right Relations and Wise Practices. She is a Status Only Asst. Professor at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, and an Adjunct Asst. Professor at Lakehead in the Department of Anthropology. She is currently the Chair and a board member for Teach for Canada. She is an Honourary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and Chair of the Governing Circle for the National Centre For Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. She is an active and engaging media representative, is interested in environmental and humanitarian causes, and is actively engaged in a variety of initiatives across Canada. Her teaching and academic writing is directed towards understanding Historic and inter-generational trauma and unresolved grief within the Indigenous community. She is a member of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation on Lake Simcoe. Cynthia has dedicated her life to building bridges of understanding and sees endless merit in bringing people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds together to engage in practical dialogue. She is deeply committed to public education and active youth engagement, and co-founded the Canadian Roots Exchange now known as


November 4, 2021 at 1:00pm NST | About First Light with Executive Director Stacey Howse |First Light is a registered non-profit organization that serves the urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous community alike by providing programs and services rooted in the revitalization, strengthening and celebration of Indigenous cultures and languages in the spirit of trust, respect, and friendship. Executive Director Stacey Howse will speak to the group about programs, social supports, social enterprises and other opportunities for Indigenous peoples to connect through First Light.

May 31, 2021 | First Light’s Aboriginal Patient Navigator Program: A decade of Successful Collaboration with Eastern Health | Katie Dicker, Senior APN, First Light; Solomon Semigak, APN, First Light; Mollie Butler, Regional Director Professional Practice & Indigenous Health at Eastern Health; and Andrew Harvey, Director of Housing and Social Supports, First LightThe group learned about the 10+ years of the Aboriginal Patient Navigator (APN) program, a successful collaboration between Eastern Health and First Light St. John’s Friendship Centre (formerly the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre). The APN serves Indigenous people who are navigating the healthcare system in St. John’s by providing support with system navigation, advocating for funding and supports, and providing interpretation services. The presenters discussed the successes and challenges that they have encountered over the years and outline the impact of the program on improving the experiences of Indigenous people who are navigating often complex healthcare and funding systems. The presenters also discussed how the APN program serves as an example of successful collaboration between a healthcare system and a community agency and outlined the lessons we can all learn about the importance of such partnerships to meet the needs of Indigenous people in the Province. |

May 19, 2021 | Patshitinikutau Natukunisha Tshishennuat Uitshuau (A Place for Elders to Spend their Last Days in Life): Developing an Innu Approach to Palliative Care | Dr. Russell Dawe and Dr. Xixi Gong with Mr. Jack Penashue | The group learned about this community-based, patient-oriented research project investigating the cultural needs and practices of the Innu in Sheshatshiu, Labrador regarding end-of-life care. The project was conceived by members of the community and conducted with guidance and leadership from an Innu Advisory Committee. The objectives of this research were to: 1) Describe the cultural and spiritual practices of the Innu as they relate to death and dying; 2) Describe current end-of-life medical and community services available; 3) Compare rates of home and hospital death for Innu and non-Innu communities in Labrador; 4) Identify aspects of current end-of-life care that serve or fail to serve the needs of the Innu; and 5) Explore ways of bringing Innu cultural and spiritual practices together with end-of-life healthcare delivery to ensure more culturally safe care going forward. This presentation reviewed the methods and especially the findings from this research, with opportunity for interactive questions and answers. This project is a collaboration between the Innu Nation, Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, Labrador-Grenfell Regional Health Authority, Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine, and the Labrador Institute. | Link to Project Description |

May 19, 2021 | COVID-19 Research in Tłı̨chǫ Region | Katherine Fleury and Tyanna Steinwand | The quick onset of COVID-19 left countries and communities in need of emergency management procedures. Health policies and programs were implemented quickly and continuously updated as we learned more about the disease. However, to best serve a population, decision-makers must evaluate implemented health policies to recognize potential impacts on community members. This is especially true in northern and Indigenous communities where health systems have unique features to which they must adapt, including experiences relating to remote geographies, indigenous values, and health equity. Beneficial policy recommendations can be developed in the future by engaging in conversation with those affected by adaptations to health services. The Tłı̨chǫ community of Behchokǫ̀ in the NWT was identified through research partnership as a community where a qualitative case study to understand these effects could be conducted safely. This project involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Elders, community members, and local Tłı̨chǫ policy and service delivery staff. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and analyzed to understand the scope of public engagement related to pandemic response, the perception of public health policies and how they were implemented, and how to improve policy and programs in the future. Primary content analysis revealed three themes, including: 1) A discrepancy between policy and Tłı̨chǫ way of life; 2) Uncertainty in the uptake of public health recommendations; 3) The strength and resiliency of community connection. Current policy development has utilized a top-down approach, with implementation being altered to ensure cultural relevancy. Moving forward, we must ensure that traditions are built into health policy. | Link to Presentation |

February 16, 2021 | NL-SUPPORT Presentation and discussion about Indigenous Health Research and Approaches for Community Outreach | Chelsey McPhee and Kathleen Mather Newfoundland and Labrador's Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials Unit, or NL SUPPORT, offers knowledge brokering, expertise and funding to create a culture of Patient-Oriented Research in Newfoundland and Labrador. They improve outcomes for patients in our province by supporting research that directly impacts the lives of patients by making them partners in research. The presenters discussed NL-SUPPORT's work in Indigenous Health and will ask group members to contribute insights into ethical and effective enagagement with Indigenous communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. | Link to Presentation |


October 27, 2020 | An Introduction to Memorial University’s New Policy on Research Impacting Indigenous Groups | Dr. Neil Bose, Vice President of Research, Memorial University and Kelly Anne Butler, Interim Chair of the Committee on Ethical Research Impacting Indigenous Groups CERIIG | On July 9, 2020, Memorial University's Board of Regents approved the new Research Impacting Indigenous Groups (RIIG) policy. This inaugural meeting of the Research Exchange Group on Indigenous Health will be an opportunity to review this new policy – the first of its kind in Canadian universities. The policy is intended to strengthen the integrity and impact of research impacting Indigenous groups and will, together with TCPS2 Chapter 9, be a requirement for doing Indigenous research at Memorial University. The meeting will be a forum to talk about the new policy and to discuss the ethical responsibilities of Memorial University faculty, staff, and students in relationship to the RIIG policy, as well as outlining some of the principles behind doing Indigenous research in a good way based on decades and even centuries of existing knowledge and practices. | Link to Policy Information |

November 17, 2020 | The Inuit Health Survey | Kristeen McTavish, Inuit Health Survey Manager at the Nunatsiavut Government and Pauletta Tremblett, Inuit Health Survey Coordinator, at the Nunatsiavut Government | The presenters spoke with the group about the Inuit Health Survey: development process, guiding principles, how the Inuit Regions are working together to lead, own, and manage the entire survey, and how they are going about developing the survey content. The National Inuit Health Survey will include Inuit of all ages from every community in the nation and is the only health survey controlled and led by Inuit. It is being developed and carried out in partnership with the four Inuit regional organizations, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Makivik Corporation and the Nunatsiavut Government, as well as Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and the National Inuit Youth Council. This permanent health survey data collection is expected to begin in 2021 and to take place every five years. All of the data will be owned by Inuit and survey questions will reflect Inuit health priorities. Today, much of the information on Inuit health is out-of-date and fails to accurately reflect the state of Inuit health and wellness. The survey will collect up-to-date information that will help program and policy makers at the local, regional and national levels better understand how the health status of Inuit is changing and guide Inuit health program development. | Link to More Information |

December 8, 2020 | The Elders-in-Residence Program at Memorial University's School of Social Work | Fred Andersen, School of Social Work; Valeri Pilgrim and Tama Fost from Memorial's Indigenous Resource Office (ARO); Hilary Edmunds | The presenters spoke with the group about the Visiting Indigenous Elders Pilot Project, co-created by Memorial’s School of Social Work and the Indigenous Resource Office and funded by the Undergraduate Student Services Fee Fund.  The project is aimed to support visits to Memorial by Elders from Mi’kmaq, Innu and Inuit communities of Newfoundland and Labrador with the goal of establishing an ongoing Elders-in-Residence program for Memorial University. | Link to Presentation |