Conference report.
Article Type: Conference notes
Author: Wilson, Denise
Pub Date: 08/01/2010
Publication: Name: Nursing Praxis in New Zealand Publisher: Nursing Praxis in New Zealand Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Nursing Praxis in New Zealand ISSN: 0112-7438
Issue: Date: August, 2010 Source Volume: 26 Source Issue: 2
Accession Number: 291701799
Full Text: International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge and Development Knowing our Roots: Indigenous Medicines, Health Knowledges and Best Practices

Kiana Lodge, Port Madison reservation on the Suquamish Nation, Washington, USA

24-28 may 2010

This was the fourth biennial conference of the International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge and Development (INIHKD), an organisation originating from the desire of indigenous peoples from Aotearoa, Australia, Canada and the United States to network and share health knowledge. Conferences have previously been held in Townsville, Vancouver, and Rotorua. A large contingent of New Zealand researchers, policy makers, health professionals, and Maori health providers attended this conference. It provided an opportunity to gain new knowledge, take part in a number of indigenous cultural experiences, and importantly, to network with international delegates as well as those from Aotearoa. Ironically, although we were so far from New Zealand the conference enabled us to meet new people and catch up with old friends from home.

On the first day of the conference, the Suquamish people welcomed conference delegates with a traditional canoe ceremony. Indigenous representatives of seven countries attending the conference (Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Hawai'i, Mexico, Canada, and the USA) 'pulled' canoes, and a process similar to karanga and powhiri culminated in permission being granted for the conference delegates to stand on Suquamish land. This was followed by a traditional clambake and oyster feast (cooked hangi style on the beach). Official country introductions followed our welcome to Suquamish reservation.

The second day focused on indigenous knowledge. Linda Tuhiwai-Smith's keynote presentation challenged us about knowing as changing, intervening, and transforming rather than as accumulating knowledge. The challenge she laid down to the audience was to think critically, and she posed the following questions to assist this process:

* How do we think about indigenous knowledge?

* How do we know it?

* How can we apply it?

* How do we pass it forward?

* How do we honour it?

Paulette Trembly from Canada talked about traditional knowledge and stressed the importance of population-based research to assist in defining contemporary indigenous knowledge. She made it clear that indigenous peoples in contemporary society are not how they were prior to colonisation. The afternoon included several streamed symposia on community partnerships and health services historical trauma and healing, research protection and ethics, research methods and measurement issues, and a herbal medicine hands-on workshop.

The evening activities began with a dinner banquet where we had the opportunity to taste traditional Suquamish food--clams, elk stew, corn chowder, and berry pie. This was followed by entertainment where each country shared their traditional song, dance, music and stories, beginning by the Aztec people from Mexico dressed in spectacular feather headdress and whose dance gave a new meaning to high impact aerobic exercise. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contingent educated the audience on a traditional bird dance and what it means. We performed kapa haka, and the evening ended with the Suquamish people performing.

Day three focused on indigenous medicines and began with a plenary panel of representatives from Australia, Canada, the USA and Aotearoa. Traditional elders also shared their insights and wisdom about indigenous medicines. A variety of symposia were offered, including tobacco: traditional & non-traditional use, native plants and medicines, HIV and STI risk and resilience, community based participatory research, and traditional storytelling as a healing practice. In the afternoon symposia topics included traditional and customary practices and research and practice, women's sexual and familial health, plants, storytelling and singing for healing, contemporary indigenous health policy issues, and a workshop delivered by Homai, Hoatu Traditional Health and Healing Practices by Iwi, Hapu, and Whanau-Based Practitioners. The evening involved traditional Suquamish activities which included a sweat lodge.

The focus of day four was on indigenous best practices, and began with a multi-country panel exploring the concept of indigenous best practices. This was followed again by a variety of symposia: substance abuse and prevention, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, violence prevention and pathways to healing, men's health, historical trauma and post-colonial stress: neurodevelopmental and developmental psychopathology. The afternoon began with another plenary panel, and symposia that included maternal and child health, mental health, resiliency and healing, and health services. The second part of the workshop was delivered by Homai, Hoatu Traditional Health and Healing Practices by Iwi, Hapu, and Whanau-Based Practitioners. That evening was the signature salmon dinner followed by dancing.

The final day included the closing ceremony and the country reports and feedback.

This conference was packed full of information sharing and cultural experiences. My reflection on this amazing week led me to be astounded by the similar stories and experiences the indigenous people from those seven countries have. It is the same story but different contexts. The session that had the most impact on me was by Dr Joe Stone on historical trauma and post-colonial stress: neurodevelopmental and developmental psychopathology. In this workshop, he explained the nature of indigenous historical (or intergenerational) trauma, and the compounding effects from one generation to the next since the colonisation of indigenous peoples. This session also highlighted the importance of indigenous people knowing their cultural identity and understanding their colonising history as part of the healing process. It also explained why social problems that did not exist precolonisation came to be present in those indigenous communities.

Denise Wilson, RN PhD FCNA(NZ)

Associate Professor--Maori Health, AUT University
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