New network bringing together Indigenous students and health professionals
Based in Kahnawake, Quebec Indigenous Mentorship Network seeks to support and encourage Indigenous students
A newly launched network is hoping to provide culturally-grounded support for Indigenous students across Quebec with dreams of careers in the health sector.
"We do need more representation in all health-related fields. There's a growing number, but we're all very stretched with demands," said Treena Delormier, an associate professor in the School of Human Nutrition at McGill University.
Delormier, a Kanien'kehá:ka from Kahnawake, near Montreal, is one of the handful of Indigenous mentors working with the new Quebec Indigenous Mentorship Network. The network, which is funded by the Institute of Indigenous Peoples' Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is based in Kahnawake.
Delormier said she benefited from great mentors in her own research work, and she wanted to pay that forward.
"For me, it is just like a natural part of research training, especially when we're talking about health research and Indigenous communities," she said.
Delormier is involved in nutrition and health promotion interventions that address the social determinants of health underlying the inequalities Indigenous people experience, in a historical context of colonialism.
"There's been a lot of particulars in it with respect to the history of research that has been in our communities which has not always been positive," she said.
"Our history of health is so contextualized in this specific context of colonisation. It's a complex situation and I think that any research mentoring is going to be helpful, but this particular network is focused on Indigenous communities building capacity."
Responding to Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The federal government announced last year that it would invest $8 million over five years to establish the mentorship network for First Nations, Métis and Inuit health researchers as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
Quebec's network was officially launched in February, and it's the only one out of the eight that is based in a First Nations community.
Adriana Poulette, the project coordinator, said the funding will allow the community to foster mentor-mentee relationships, offer scholarships, and hold an annual summer institute.
The first one will take place from August 27-29 at the 207 longhouse in Kahnawake.
"The summer gathering is for learning, but really what we wanted to focus on this year is to talk about what is culturally safe Indigenous health research," said Poulette.
"What does that mean to Onkwehón:we people and what kind of lessons can we share about that?"
The gathering is something Ben Geboe is looking forward to, as both a mentor and student working on his PhD at the McGill School of Social Work.
"We go to school, we get training, we supervise, we're working in the field, are helping others, and we often ourselves may need more, or desire more, support and we often don't get that," he said.
Geboe is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, and spends his time between New York City and Montreal. He sees the network as something that will help end the isolation Indigenous students often feel in their respective programs.
"When we do come together on campus, at places like the First Peoples' House, sometimes that's the only time you're going to see another Native person at all, so it can be a very adverse environment," he said.