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The Mount Polley Mine Spill: An Environmental Scan into Indigenous Holistic Approaches to Environmental Health and the Systems that Emerge in Canada and Australia

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The tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley mine on August 4th 2014 is known as the worst disaster in Canadian mining history. The mine is operated by Imperial Metals and is located on the traditional territory of the Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ) and the Xat’sull Soda Creek First Nations people. Despite coordinated protests and an ongoing investigation into the full magnitude of the effects of the spill, the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas has accepted an application to reopen the Mount Polley mine. With reference to the ecohealth approach, this capstone aims to engage with Indigenous teachings about connection to land to promote new ecological ethics and holistic theoretical perspectives within environmentally oriented public health research and practice. This capstone is informed by an environmental scan of research, grey literature and web-based data, to explore how Indigenous communities in Canada and Australia are defining health and environmental health and what Indigenous systems are emerging that embody notions of holism and interconnectedness. The results of the scan show the need for Indigenous-led institutions to develop definitions of environmental health that are rooted in their knowledge base and encompass Indigenous notions of health and well-being. The findings also illuminate the silences in the literature and the powerful implications of silencing ecological losses. The literature search reveals that how we gather data with First Nations peoples in Canada nationally and historically is problematic. This study concludes with the assertion that building on the strengths of both Indigenous knowledge and ecohealth is fertile ground that has the potential to acknowledge the environment as a setting for health and a place for healing and reconciliation.
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