Training promotes better understanding of Aboriginal culture
Academic programs and campus groups are incorporating Aboriginal cultural sensitivity training into their curriculum and outreach activities.
“The training encourages participants to be more open-minded and do some self-reflection to understand that cultural values and norms of Aboriginal people may be different because of unique socio-political histories,” says Laura Maracle, Aboriginal Student Success Strategist. “At Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, it is our hope that by offering this training, students, faculty and staff have more awareness of the impact colonial policies, both past and present, have on Indigenous people.”
Anishnawbe Health Toronto created the training as a three-year pilot project. Cultural safety encourages people to go beyond acknowledging cultural differences and seek to understand the historical, cultural and political issues that impact Aboriginal people and their interactions with systems such as colonial policies, post-secondary education and health care.
Ms Maracle began offering the training on campus last year. She has worked with several groups including Queen’s Health Outreach, a student-run organization that promotes health through peer education initiatives both in northern Canada and around the world. Ms Maracle has also met with Occupational Therapy faculty and presented several guest lectures in first- and second-year courses.
“The students have found Ms Maracle’s presentations beneficial because through them they learn more about Aboriginal cultural perspectives and the multiple components to health and wellness in the Aboriginal context,” says Margaret Jamieson, Chair, Occupational Therapy Program.
The training is particularly valuable for students who want to work with Aboriginal communities in the future. It helps them think about the ways they can make the health-care experience for Aboriginal people safer and more comfortable. However, this training is often modified to fit the needs of any program or department. Ms Maracle notes that learning to incorporate cultural competency within day-to-day practices is effective for anyone, regardless of cultural affiliation.