A cloudy, cool morning couldn’t dampen the spirit behind the release of the Aboriginal Health Strategy on May 28, 2010. The partners – Kinistin Saulteaux Nation, Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI) and Saskatoon Health Region presented the report to the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority (SRHA) at an event which began earlier in the day with a sacred pipe ceremony. Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Guy Lonechild, member of the Legislative Assembly Joceline Schriemer along with Metis Nation of Saskatchewan President Robert Doucette and Saskatoon Tribal Council Vice Chief Geraldine Arcand were on hand to express their support for the strategy.

(left to right) Peter Nippi, Chief, Kinistin Saulteaux First Nation; Shan Landry, Vice President, Community Services, Saskatoon Health Region; and Shirley Isbister, President CUMFI; present the strategy to Jim Rhode, Chair, Saskatoon Regional Health Authority.

“This strategy was built with the understanding of all partners and fosters a true collaboration in addressing issues that face First Nations. It incorporates a cultural presence that enables a comfort zone within the Western concept,” says Chief Peter Nippi, Kinistin Saulteaux Nation.

The strategy calls for a more collaborative, holistic approach to health care.

“Each hospital in Saskatchewan should have Aboriginal healers working together with doctors and nurses,” shared one of many focus group participants.
Over a six-month period, January to July 2009, extensive focus groups were held with the Aboriginal community, including First Nation and Métis Elders, to find out how to create a unique “patient-first” experience for Aboriginal people.

Community members, Saskatoon Health Region staff and physicians and special guests take

Two of the major recommendations within the report include the development of an Aboriginal Health Council to assist Saskatoon Health Region with implementation, as well as plans to incorporate cultural liaison workers into hospitals.

“The strategic plan and the Aboriginal Health Council leadership represent the commitment to working with the Saskatoon Health Region, in a creative and collaborative manner, to best deliver services to and with Aboriginal people. Our goal is to truly strengthen the circle,” says Shirley Isbister, President, CUMFI.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan have endorsed the strategy and recently signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the 74 First Nations, 10 tribal councils and Métis locals in the province. They strongly recommend the Authority proceed with creating the Aboriginal Health Council.

Jim Rhode, Chair, Saskatoon Regional Health Authority, says this partnership has provided a new vision for collaborating with the Aboriginal community, adding that he and the Board are “looking forward to reading, debating and adopting the strategy.”

“Thank you for your stories, guidance and recommendations, and for creating this emotional and enlightening report that will challenge us towards excellence.”

Strengthening the Circle officially began with a pipe ceremony in April 2008 and ended March 2010. The partnership will live on through the report, its recommendations and the work of the proposed Aboriginal Health Council.

Learn more about the Aboriginal Health Strategy on Saskatoon Health Region’s website.