Indigenous worldviews within health education: Failure is a gift

By Laura Mushumanski

(ANNews) – As you read my words, some of you can think of me as your auntie, cousin, or sister that is goofy and usually, somehow makes a lot of sense. For ones that know what a rotary phone is I can be your witty, sarcastic niece, daughter or granddaughter. And others – straighten out.

Before I begin, I want to share with you one of my favourite words – those that know, know, ‘mama-sheesh’ and well ‘keesh-kwan’ because I use to hear this word quite often from my aunts. If you do not know either of these words, please ask an older relative, I am sure they could always use a good laugh!

An Indigenous worldview within health education is crucial. The philosophy on how to live a good life is embedded in our ceremonies, languages, relationships with the land – where everything about health is an Indigenous way of understanding the world we live in. This is where we are about to turn those frowns upside down . . . because health education within Canada is subjected to a vast misinterpretation towards the understanding of a person’s health and well-being.

Have you ever noticed that when your body is calm and relaxed, you do not question your self-worth? Instead, you are almost confident enough to fight off a bear that just stole your fish. But yet when something does not go as planned, more or less as Creator planned, why are you down and out, and resort to hindering your spirit by thinking you are a failure because of an event or a situation?

More than a few times during my adult life I had to go ground myself, in my room, like I use to have to when I was a kid – who knew that grounding was more about having time for reflection about what I just did where somebody was a witness to one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I am also pretty sure that I am not the only one that can be petty and throw f-bombs out of my mouth as if I am participating in a speed round on Family Feud with Steve Harvey.

And as I take a moment to engage in a sinister chuckle, thinking what I did was hilarious and I was in the ‘right’, only to discover – after I took a time out, that “oooffff, that wasn’t nice Laura, wanting to rip a person a new a-hole because you were blaming others for your hurt is not something to write home about.”

Indigenous worldviews are action orientated, implying everything is in constant motion and that we are continuously growing and learning as a process and part of our own journey. To suppress the understanding of life as a process aligns with how colonial views seem to be more fitted in seeing challenges and barriers as problematic yet Indigenous worldviews see this as an essential part of healing, an honour and an opportunity. This leads to ‘health-related issues’ within health education from a Eurocentric worldview that oppress the ability to perceive health challenges as 4-part person connection to the world we engage in. These ‘issues’ alternatively, can be viewed as a learning process to live a good life.

The challenges that each person faces, from an Indigenous worldview are seen as an opportunity to connect with oneself as a practice of reciprocity, as these understandings are different ways, our bush people ways. All our relations are bush people – even my part Ukrainian bloodline – of how we interpret the world.

Decolonizing health perspectives within Canadian health education implies having a different interpretation of health itself. This is where my understanding of health is based on the practice of reciprocity as a process of give and take. Understanding give and take as a process within an Indigenous worldview is viewed as our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health all need to be in sync and in balance with each other.

The teachings of balance and understanding within health education, from an Indigenous worldview of course – speaks to reciprocity as finding balance within our natural environment. So, before you think silly thoughts, and we all do because learning is a process, just like understanding our health is a process, please remind yourself that the actions of reciprocity with the land is to take care of the land like it is our own lives.

Acknowledging the world outside of our own heads, that is a magical challenge waiting to be greeted with a grin and sarcasm, to only discover how precious this challenge is that walked in unannounced and into our lives. By the way, have you taken time to notice that everything in life needs to be sustainable in order to thrive, not just survive?

Now let’s venture into our Ojibway brother’s and sister’s teachings of the medicine wheel, and where the Nehiyawewak, the Plains Cree people, my relatives that reside on Treaty 6 Territory incorporate teachings of the medicine wheel into their teachings, where I have come to know that our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health should align with each of the 4 seasons.

The changing of seasons and how each season resembles a specific time of day, and where it seems that our worldviews contribute to understanding the body as a continuation and representation of our natural environment. I also found that seeing challenges are like dark clouds is part of the process to understanding and holding knowledge on how to live a good life. And where we cannot appreciate sunny skies and blossoming flowers without having dark clouds form, that are made up of dust particles and water molecules, and windy days to disburse water from the clouds to create rain and turn everything green, majority of things green – on Mother Earth.

Everything is interconnected, reciprocity is an ongoing process of give and take that is one of many foundational understandings of how to live a good life. The process of life, failure in some perspectives, is not a bad thing; it is a beautiful gift and honour.

Please, before you think of yourself as a ‘failure’, know that ‘failure’ is a word, that perhaps you can shift those thought patterns to understanding that you are being challenged and it is a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Afterall, you ain’t Creator, you also are not perfect – attempting to be perfect is exhausting and personally knowing how much responsibility it is taking care of little ol’ me, on some days it is equivalent to having 4-full-time jobs. These challenges are building resiliency within your body, you are growing and learning as part of a process, along your own journey and where everyone else is experiencing similar challenges; we are on our own healing journeys, separately-together.

Laura Mushumanski is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.

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