Indigenous Celebration: MD curriculum champions inclusivity and social accountability

Posted on Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Indigenous Celebration

uOttawa Faculty of Medicine’s Indigenous Celebration took place at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health on September 11, where new MD students gathered to experience and learn about Indigenous cultures.

The Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) at uOttawa is grounded in the three founding cultures of Canada: Indigenous, French and English. Therefore, all first-year MD students are sensitized to a number of Indigenous issues including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada’s residential school history, Indigenous health and cultural safety.

As part of a full-day introduction to Indigenous health in the MD curriculum, the Indigenous Celebration began with opening prayers and words of wisdom from Algonquin Elder Annie Smith St-Georges joined by her helper and partner Robert St-Georges, followed by Métis Senator Reta Gordon and Inuk Elder Sally Webster.

This year’s new medical students will not only continue with the integration of learning modules on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, but will also benefit from the newly expanded Social Accountability Program, which now extends beyond the MD program to include the research and education portfolios.

“We are doing this because it is essential that we all participate in the mandate to ensure equitable access to health care and the provision of culturally sensitive care,” said Dr. Melissa Forgie, vice-dean of UGME. “We are promoting real and meaningful institutional change in the curriculum that allows us to fully respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.”

Dr. Forgie also announced that the Faculty of Medicine is proceeding with the creation of a Centre for Indigenous Health Research and Education at the University of Ottawa.

While previous situated at Victoria Island (which sits between Ontario and Québec on the Ottawa River), this year’s Indigenous Celebration took place at the Wabano Centre—an Ottawa-based clinic offering medical services and social programs to the local Indigenous community.

Throughout this special afternoon, MD students enjoyed a traditional lunch and experienced several cultural performances by Indigenous Peoples:

  • Ogimaakwewak singers (Gabrielle Fayant, Madeleine Kelly, Crystal Stone-Green);
  • A Haudenosaunee honour song (Mike Wade);
  • Haudenosaunee dance styles (Clayton Longboat with Mike Wade);
  • Inuit game demonstrations (Simon Coady, Jackie Mitsima and Iola Ashaweetok);
  • Hoop dance (Theland Kicknosway) and honour song (Theland Kicknosway and his mother Elaine Kicknosway);
  • And a Métis dance troupe called "Prairie Fire" (Hunter, Riley and JJ McKenzie). 

“Today you see, hear and feel First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures directly,” said Dr. Darlene Kitty, Director of the Indigenous Program, who prepared a message delivered on her behalf as she was away serving her patients.

“As you learn about Indigenous cultures, health and social issues, you also begin your journey towards cultural safety and reconciliation. Particularly as you help Indigenous patients, I encourage you to understand who they are and where they are coming from.”

Indigenous dances

Photo credit : Chonglu Huang

uOttawa MD students participating in an Indigenous group dance.


Hoop dance

Photo credit : Chonglu Huang

Theland Kicknosway performing a traditional hoop dance.

honour song

Photo credit : Chonglu Huang

Theland Kicknosway performing an honour song with his mother Elaine Kicknosway.

Inuit games

Photo credit : Chonglu Huang

Two MD students try out an Inuit game.

Métis dance group Prairie Fire

Photo credit : Chonglu Huang

Métis dance group "Prairie Fire" performs traditional dance.


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