Land and nature as sources of health and resilience among Indigenous youth in an urban Canadian context: a photovoice exploration [2020]

Background
Population and environmental health research illustrate a positive relationship between access to greenspace or natural environments and peoples’ perceived health, mental health, resilience, and overall well-being. This relationship is also particularly strong among Canadian Indigenous populations and social determinants of health research where notions of land, health, and nature can involve broader spiritual and cultural meanings. Among Indigenous youth health and resilience scholarship, however, research tends to conceptualize land and nature as rural phenomena without any serious consideration on their impacts within urban cityscapes. This study contributes to current literature by exploring Indigenous youths’ meaning-making processes and engagements with land and nature in an urban Canadian context.

Methods
Through photovoice and modified Grounded Theory methodology, this study explored urban Indigenous youth perspectives about health and resilience within an inner-city Canadian context. Over the course of one year, thirty-eight in-depth interviews were conducted with Indigenous (Plains Cree First Nations and Métis) youth along with photovoice arts-based and talking circle methodologies that occurred once per season. The research approach was also informed by Etuaptmumk or a “two-eyed seeing” framework where Indigenous and Western “ways of knowing” (worldviews) can work alongside one another.

Results
Our strength-based analyses illustrated that engagement with and a connection to nature, either by way of being present in nature and viewing nature in their local urban context, was a central aspect of the young peoples’ photos and their stories about those photos. This article focuses on three of the main themes that emerged from the youth photos and follow-up interviews: (1) nature as a calming place; (2) building metaphors of resilience; and (3) providing a sense of hope. These local processes were shown to help youth cope with stress, anger, fear, and other general difficult situations they may encounter and navigate on a day-to-day basis.

Conclusions
This study contributes to the literature exploring Indigenous youths’ meaning-making process and engagements with land and nature in an urban context, and highlights the need for public health and municipal agencies to consider developing more culturally safe and meaningful natural environments that can support the health, resilience, and well-being of Indigenous youth within inner-city contexts.

Andrew R. Hatala, Chinyere Njeze, Darrien Morton, Tamara Pearl & Kelley Bird-Naytowhow
BMC Public Health, volume 20, Article number: 538 (2020)
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