As Manitobans grapple with the impact of COVID-19, UWinnipeg has received funding enabling researchers to increase health research support to Indigenous organizations.
The University of Winnipeg has received funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) to support Kishaadigeh, an Indigenous-led health research project developed by and with Indigenous communities and organizations to empower health research initiatives that reflect their priorities.
“The impact of this funding will be felt for years to come,” said UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Annette Trimbee. “By ensuring Indigenous experiences, values, and priorities are at the forefront of Indigenous health research, this project provides a vital foundation to improve the health of Indigenous peoples, and create opportunities for future generations of Indigenous health researchers.”
Funding provides vital resource for Indigenous communities
Over the next five years, CIHR has allocated over $3.5 million with the possibility of two additional five-year renewal periods, which could result in funding up to $10.5 million.
“Our partner organizations are working closely to respond to COVID-19 right now, and the NEIHR provides an opportunity to support this important work. This is the largest CIHR grant The University of Winnipeg has ever received and demonstrates the importance of developing and maintaining reciprocal relationships with Indigenous communities around research, as well as pathways to education,” said project lead, Dr. Jaime Cidro.
Cidro is an associate professor in UWinnipeg’s Department of Anthropology, Canada Research Chair in Health and Culture, and the director of UWinnipeg’s Master’s in Development Practice, Indigenous Development program.
“As we respond to the health crisis within our urban Indigenous population, this funding provides a vital resource to understand the needs of our community and adapt services to meet those needs,” said Coreen Roulette, executive director of the Manitoba Association for Friendship Centres.
Rachel Dutton, executive director of the Manitoba Inuit Association, says she is looking forward to identifying Inuit health research initiatives that enhance Inuit wellness.
“During this unprecedented time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded of how we are ‘stronger together’,” she said. “This is manifested in the Indigenous-led health research project, Kishaadigeh. Manitoba Inuit Association is pleased to be working in partnership with The University of Winnipeg and the team of community collaborators on this important work.”
Collaboration is central to Kishaadigeh, an Ojibway word meaning she who guards the lodge.
“In many of our Indigenous communities, we see the responsibilities of guarding of the lodge as also guarding our stories and knowledge,” said Cidro. “In this project, the lodge is a place where relationships guide the development of Indigenous research, from the initiation of an idea, to the development and implementation of a project, to the final output.”
Through these lodges, Indigenous communities will self-determine their research priorities, working together as a collaborative group to share knowledge and mentorship.
Indigenous partners guide research process
Cidro will work closely with partner organizations such as the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba (FNHSSM), the Manitoba Association for Friendship Centres (MAC), the Manitoba Inuit Association (MIA), the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre of Winnipeg (AHWC), and Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO) to help increase research capacity and ensure that Indigenous partners are leading the research process.
“As a partner in this NEIHR, we are honored to support this project as it has been led by an all Indigenous research team and by former students who were supported by the ACADRE/NEAHR in previous years,” said Leona Star, Director of Research, FNHSSM.
“We look forward to continuing to work within and expand our network of research relationships, to provide guidance and mentorship to the next generation of Indigenous researchers who are following the pathway that was created by past HIRGC members and leaders in First Nations health research,” she said.
FNHSSM has extensive research experience, and will play a leading role in providing mentorship and support to other partner organizations.
Other project collaborators include Blackfoot Confederacy along with several other university partners from the University of Manitoba, Laurentian University, University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, Ryerson University, and the University of Calgary.
“Our Friendship Centres represent the largest infrastructure for urban Indigenous programming and service delivery in Manitoba,” said Roulette. “This project will allow us to support our Friendship Centres in their pursuit of meeting the needs of their communities, while informing our organizational responses to the urban Indigenous experience. We are beyond pleased to partner with UWinnipeg, Dr. Jaime Cidro, and other community groups through the Kishaadigeh NEIHR grant.”
Self-determination leads to meaningful engagement
Each Indigenous partner organization will independently define and determine, from the perspectives of their respective communities, how they would like to engage with university researchers.
“We will develop pathways for existing and emerging university and community-based Indigenous scholars to work alongside and within Indigenous organizations and communities to lay the foundation for self-determination in research, resulting in meaningful engagement that is ethical and impactful,” explained Cidro.
Through the Kishaadigeh project, Cidro hopes to transform the nature of research, developing an infrastructure to recognize, support, and promote self-determination in research to close the gaps in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
Cidro looks forward to working with Indigenous partner organizations as they develop and engage in research rooted in Indigenous understandings of health and wellness, with a focus on supporting research that highlights what communities are doing well, and rooted in Indigenous systems and understanding.
“This large investment through CIHR’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples Health signifies a shift in the power relationship with university-led research and emphasizes the need for collaborations to demonstrate a gold standard level of ethical partnerships,” said Cidro.
She expects other Indigenous partner organizations will join Kishaadigeh in the future, and welcomes opportunities to support projects that focus on Indigenous, community-led health research.