Connection to the land as a youth-identified social determinant of Indigenous Peoples’ health [2019]

Social determinants of Indigenous health are known to include structural determinants such as history, political climate, and social contexts. Relationships, interconnectivity, and community are fundamental to these determinants. Understanding these determinants from the perspective of Indigenous youth is vital to identifying means of alleviating future inequities.

In 2016, fifteen Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) youth in the Canadian Northwest Territories participated in the ‘On-the-Land Health Leadership Camp’. Using a strength- and community-based participatory approach through an Indigenous research lens, the YKDFN Wellness Division and university researchers crafted the workshop to provide opportunities for youth to practice cultural skills, and to capture the youth’s perspectives of health and health agency. Perspectives of a healthy community, health issues, and health priorities were collected from youth through sharing circles, PhotoVoice, mural art, and surveys.

The overall emerging theme was that a connection to the land is an imperative determinant of YKDFN health. Youth identified the importance of a relationship to land including practicing cultural skills, Elders passing on traditional knowledge, and surviving off the land. The youth framed future health research to include roles for youth and an on-the-land component that builds YKDFN culture, community relations, and traditional knowledge transfer. Youth felt that a symbiotic relationship between land, environment, and people is fundamental to building a healthy community.

Our research confirmed there is a direct and critical relationship between structural context and determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ health, and that this should be incorporated into health research and interventions.

Laurie-Ann Lines, Yellowknives Dene First Nation Wellness Division and Cynthia G. Jardine
BMC Public Health, 2019 19:176