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Nine projects aimed at advancing reconciliation in Saskatchewan funded in Research Connections

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

A project to develop an interactive online map of previously unmarked graves discovered on the Cowessess First Nation in June 2021 is one of nine being funded by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) as part of a focused call of its Research Connections program.

In keeping with its mandate to align research with the needs of the province, SHRF is investing $89,520 in a variety of projects aimed at improving the health of Indigenous people by addressing Calls to Action set out by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The Research Connections: Truth and Action funding will enable project teams to carry out activities such as sharing Indigenous knowledge and stories; addressing historic attitudes, behaviours and structures; and providing guidance on delivering culturally responsive health care.

Viv Ramsden, vice-chair of SHRF’s Board of Directors, said the Research Connections program is intended to support knowledge sharing and collaborations that can help build a Saskatchewan where health and well-being exist for all.

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action were an appeal to mobilize all levels of government, and organizations and individuals across the country to make concrete changes in society,” said Ramsden, who is Director of the Research Division in USask’s Department of Academic Family Medicine. “The projects we’re supporting will contribute to building and maintaining mutually respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan.”

The SHRF Research Connections program offers grants to support short-term, targeted, human health research knowledge mobilization and knowledge translation initiatives taking place in, and having a practical application for, Saskatchewan knowledge users, to facilitate the sharing of health research knowledge in non-academic mediums or settings.

To read more about this Research Connections call and some of the funded projects, check out: New funding program supporting projects aimed at advancing reconciliation in Saskatchewan


Funding Recipients

Gary Groot, University of Saskatchewan, $9,910

Stories from the North-West Communities Spring 2020 COVID-19 Outbreak: Lessons for Policymakers

In the spring of 2020, when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared in north-west Saskatchewan communities, local governments acted quickly and efficiently to detect, monitor, and respond to the virus. This situation demonstrated the challenges with the implementation of public health measures in remote Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. This knowledge translation event will connect community leaders and policymakers to present the challenges and lessons learned from the spring 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in this region. The aim of this event is to provide an opportunity for local governments and multi-sectoral organizations to gather, listen, and improve pandemic preparedness for future scenarios. By addressing these challenges today, we can learn from past experiences and fully recognize the value of Indigenous leadership.

Abdul Raouf, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, $10,000

Development of an online interactive cemetery map and digital story map of Marieval Indian residential school cemetery at Cowessess First Nation Reserve (IR 73), Saskatchewan

The Marieval Indian Residential School operated from 1888 to 1997 and was located on the Cowessess First Nation Reserve (IR 73). An adjacent ground to the school was used as a cemetery. It is still an active cemetery for the Cowessess First Nation community. An older part of the cemetery ground was leveled and the grave headstones were removed in 1960s making these graves unmarked and unidentified. A team of researchers of Saskatchewan Polytechnic used ground penetration radar (GPR) to locate these graves, and mark them on the ground using survey flags. We are now proposing to create an online interactive cemetery map and a story map for the Cowessess First Nation to honour the deceased people. It is hoped that this project will bring a peace and closure for the community and will allow them to share their stories. These maps will also help to manage the cemetery effectively.

Michael Dubnewick, University of Regina, $10,000

Stories of Pride: A participatory youth-led creation

The purpose of this youth-led participatory action research connections project is to work alongside Indigenous youth as they compose their lives as wellness leaders within the Growing Young Movers afterschool program. Wellness-based activities and programming have long been a form of colonial assimilation. One primary way this occurs is through the reproducing the unquestioned narrative that wellness-based programming should specifically be targeted towards ‘fixing-up’ Indigenous youth through dominant approaches. Over the course of the connections project our research team will actively engage Indigenous youth leaders in the co-development of a booklet that is comprised of their creative works to provide space for the Indigenous youth to meaningfully enact agency over their lives and how their stories enter into the world through the creation of a tangible text and to provide a tangible text developed by the youth that teachers, administrators, and wellness practitioners in the community can refer to as a resource to guide their practice that refuses to perpetuate the deficit-based stories that are told of the youth’s lives.

Jessica Gordon, YWCA Regina, Inc., $9,650

Reconciliation & Healing through Traditional Indigenous Knowledge Exchange at the YWCA Regina

Trauma is the common thread that brings women and families, 80%+ of whom are of Indigenous ancestry, into contact with YWCA Regina services. Unless this trauma, which is the root of addiction, mental health issues, poverty, violence and family breakdown is addressed, there can be no healing and stability. Our project goal is to further the YWCA Regina’s work towards reconciliation, where our Women’s and Children’s Housing can better incorporate traditional Ways of Knowing into their work, create a culturally relevant environment for residents, and where healing from trauma can take place. Our project includes ten weeks of knowledge exchange from a Lodge Keeper/Elder and Knowledge Keeper to the YWCA Staff, the majority of whom are non-Indigenous, and the women and children who live in YWCA Regina housing, the majority of whom are Indigenous.

Elise Matthews, University of Regina, $10,000

Sharing Indigenous Childhood Disability Teachings and Stories

Indigenous knowledge translation is defined as sharing what we know about living a good life. This community-driven project will build a repository of Indigenous knowledge, teachings, virtues, and stories surrounding family experiences of childhood disability. Key words and phrases in Indigenous languages, as well as historical accounts, local stories, traditional healing practices, and Indigenous understandings of childhood disability will be collected. Online and printed resources will be available for Indigenous and non-Indigenous families of children with disabilities, health professionals, students, and community members across Saskatchewan. This knowledge will be gathered with First Nations Elders via an existing collaborative partnership between: community members, leaders, and Elders of five First Nations in Saskatchewan; professionals from a First Nations child and family service organization; and university researchers. This partnership seeks to understand experiences of childhood disability in First Nations communities, improve services, and enhance the health and well-being of children and families.

Erin Kuan, Lung Sask, $10,000

Care and History of Indigenous Peoples: Residential Schools and Sanatoria Information Sharing Project

The recent and on going unmarked grave and burial searches have created a need for accessible information, support, and increased capacity for communities and individuals searching for information. Lung Sask, File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, and the University of Saskatchewan have partnered to coordinate and increase accessibility of archival information that can be readily understood and accessed. Our main goal is to collect and coordinate historical information about Residential Schools and Tuberculosis Sanatoria for Indigenous individuals and families seeking information about the journey of a loved one. To do this we will create an online portal, reach out and share knowledge with communities. We hope to help with the search for unmarked graves by sharing information about residential schools, sanatoria, students, and patients in Saskatchewan.

Lindsey Boechler, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, $10,000

Connecting Communities: Sharing the potential of using virtual reality technology to support the mental health and wellness of Indigenous youth living in rural and remote Saskatchewan

Our researchers have partnered with the Dene High School community in La Loche, SK to explore how VR technology can be used to the promote Indigenous adolescent’s mental health and wellbeing. Our first goal was to outline the status of mental health supports and identify services gaps through the perspectives of Indigenous community members. Our team is now working alongside community members to explore how VR technology can be used to address the gaps and enhance existing supports. Our aim is to share knowledge surrounding this innovative approach to supporting mental health care and wellbeing with those who will be directly impacted and doing so in a way that encourages co-creation and connection.

Natalie Reid, University of Regina, $9,960

Building a Facilitator Community to Create a Microcredential in Trauma-Informed/Sensitive Pedagogies and Practices in Support of Educator and Student Mental Health

The research on Adverse Childhood Experiences has highlighted the importance of approaching education with an understanding of the physiological, social, emotional, spiritual, and academic impacts of trauma and adversity on our students, including the impact of the residential school system, poverty and systemic barriers in our society. Findings from the University of Regina’s Drs. Jerome Cranston and Nathalie Reid point to educators’ desire for guidance in relation to trauma-informed practices. Recognizing the need for knowledge sharing and professional development that encompasses both Indigenous and non-Indigenous ways of knowing, the Child Trauma Research Centre and Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Professional Learning have partnered to create a Saskatchewan-based and delivered microcredential in trauma-informed/sensitive pedagogies and practices.

Jo-Anne Dusel, Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, Inc., $10,000

Indigenous Men Share Stories: Promoting Indigenous Approaches to Violence Prevention

This project represents an ongoing collaboration between PATHS, prairie-based anti-violence research network RESOLVE Saskatchewan, and the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN). Jo-Anne Dusel, Executive Director of PATHS, received a request from the PBCN for video resources to be used in men’s violence prevention groups. With the help of Dr. Karen Wood, Director of RESOLVE Saskatchewan, a project was designed with the goal of creating short training videos involving Indigenous men from rural, remote, and/or northern communities. These videos will provide Indigenous men with an opportunity to share traditional knowledge about healthy families and discuss the role of men as protectors within Indigenous communities as they reflect on colonialist legacies around gender and intergenerational trauma and celebrate traditional practices of community safety and healing. These videos will serve as a vital resource for First Nations and Métis communities that may otherwise have limited internet access.


About SHRF - Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is the provincial funding agency that funds, supports and promotes the impact of health research that matters to Saskatchewan. SHRF collaborates with stakeholders to contribute to the growth of a high-performing health system, culture of innovation and the improved health of citizens by strengthening research capacity and competitiveness, increasing the investment in health research in Saskatchewan and aligning research with the needs of our stakeholders.

For more information, please contact:

Chelsea Cunningham, SHRF Programs Manager

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