34th Annual Conference of the Transcultural Nursing Society: Voices of Hope: Indigenous Wisdom and Transcultural Nursing Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA 24-27 September 2008.
Article Type: Conference notes
Subject: Associations, institutions, etc. (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Societies (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Native Americans (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Author: Wilson, Denise
Pub Date: 11/01/2008
Publication: Name: Nursing Praxis in New Zealand Publisher: Nursing Praxis in New Zealand Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Nursing Praxis in New Zealand ISSN: 0112-7438
Issue: Date: Nov, 2008 Source Volume: 24 Source Issue: 3
Product: Product Code: 8600000 Membership Organizations NAICS Code: 813 Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations
Accession Number: 206603855
Full Text: The 34th Annual Conference of the Transcultural Nursing Society, hosted by the Minnesota Chapter, focused on indigenous cultures from various places in the world. The Transcultural Nursing Society recognised that Native Americans, along with other indigenous peoples possess a wisdom that enables survival, growth, and well-being despite adversity. The conference was well attended, including number of indigenous participants of the North American, South American, African, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Pacific countries who shared their knowledge, values, practices and viewpoints. The following are a brief glimpse of highlights of this conference.

I want to begin by acknowledging Dr Helen Taiaroa, Ngaati Raukawa and Ngaati Kahungunu, who presented two papers written with Associate Professor Rose McEldowney: Weaving the contemporary position of maatauranga Maori with nursing practice, and What does it mean for a Maori (indigenous) nurse doctoral student and non-Maori (European) nurse academic to work in a bicultural supervision partnership? Both of these sessions were highly informative and created a lot of positive dialogue. The conference began with a talking circle, led by Dr Jana Lauderdale, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, a Comanche woman who uses talking circles in her research with Native American women. The focus of the talking circle was on being mindful of human rights when researching with indigenous peoples. It was recognised that it is easy to cross boundaries and violate human rights when researching indigenous peoples, and it was important to respect the people as well as respecting cultural traditions and processes.

Mr Leonard Little Finger, Lakota, talked about what it means to be indigenous. He began by highlighting that despite the difficult times and the history of Native Americans (similar to other indigenous groups), they were still alive and well. He defined indigenous as being at 'this place first', and talked about how the massacres created ongoing ecological destruction with farming and climatic conditions, economic destruction as the Native American reliance on buffalo was decimated, and the ensuing upset of their balance of life. He claimed that while many definitions for culture exist, patterned ways of life practised by groups of people have four key components: language, theology, the mind and thinking, and physical ways. However, when one culture dominates another culture, he maintained there was a danger of death within people through not just extermination, but assimilation and acculturation, resulting in a loss of identity. Identity is crucial to wellbeing, stating: "I know who I am because I know where I came from and what I am spiritually, physically, mentally, and economically. I can then know where I am going." Loss of identity is also associated with loss of language, which reflects a difference in thinking processes. Thus when indigenous peoples are forced to learn and think in a new language, aspects of their culture disappear.

Associate Professor John Lowe talked about the sacredness of indigenous knowledge, which has land and spiritual connections. However, historical traumas resulting in dispossession of indigenous knowledge contributes to intergenerational stress and unresolved grief. It is the disrespect and the violation of indigenous knowledge, he claimed, that manifests in health disparities, and is evident physical, spiritual, and social symptoms that include substance and alcohol abuse. He maintains that frameworks and environments need to be used that promote traditional indigenous healing, braced by reconnecting each person to their indigenous identity.

Dr Ignacio Ramirez, spoke about how globalisation, and economic and political policies threaten our spiritual wellbeing, and the need to listen and learn from the wisdom of grandmothers and grandfathers as a spiritual path of healing. His presentation demonstrated how 'progress' within his South American village threatened their livelihood, along with their physical, mental and spiritual health.

The final keynote speaker was Dr Pandu Hilonga-van Dijk of Namibia who talked about seeing others through their eyes, especially as health providers we encounter increasing multiculturalism among the people we see. She talked about the importance of recognising the cultural values, wisdom, and life ways of indigenous peoples in models of health service delivery. She stressed the importance of seeing other's struggle with socioeconomic and historical factors, and the sense of hopelessness that can ensue. Globalisation is increasing the heterogeneity of our societies, and the acculturation and assimilation that follows risks silencing and rendering invisible the indigenous cultures of people. Biomedical approaches resist trusting and integrating local indigenous care systems, preferring to impose the culture of the health care system onto clients. She claims that health care providers are cultural brokers, and thus we need to acknowledge that nursing is not value-free, and respect the cultural values of others. Health care providers have the opportunity, she explained, to see through both their own eyes and those of the patient to create a high cultural context in which to respond to patients.

One of the pieces of information that I took away from this conference was a warning delivered by Professor Dula Pacquiao against romanticising resilience as a panacea for those who survive and cope with adverse life circumstances. In spite of having coping strategies to respond to adverse situations, resilient people, Professor Pacquiao claims, still experience the damaging effects of underlying physiological effects of stress associated with living in adverse situations.

Denise Wilson, RN, PhD FCNA(NZ), Senior Lecturer in Nursing (Maori Health), Massey University, Albany
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