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Colonial State of Mind: Examining the Culture of Healing and the Potential for Wholeness

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Author: Jain, Vishal
Prior to European contact, Indigenous peoples had complex and intricate medical systems that demonstrated high levels of efficacy in preventing and treating a plethora of historically specific health-related issues. Since contact, Indigenous groups in Canada have experienced severe and prolonged effects of colonization by European Settlers on their communities, lands and belief-systems. Consequently, European occupation of traditional Indigenous territories has had a dramatic impact on the lived realities of Indigenous peoples, including significant effects on their health and wellness. Multiple studies indicate that the health and wellness of Canada’s Indigenous population is lower than the general population in almost every health indicator. Various correlating factors have been advanced to help elucidate factors linking the multifarious aspects of colonialism to the maintenance of this health gap. Among these explanations, scholars have investigated how the introduction and imposition of foreign political and economic structures has resulted in the alienation and disconnection of Indigenous peoples from their own cultural practices and healing methods. In response, health care scholars and providers have begun designing unique strategies to meet the specific needs of Indigenous groups. The explicit recognition and incorporation of Indigenous healing systems within the biomedical model has been linked to improving the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples in Canada. This paper adapts the popular LEARN transcultural communication guide into a 5-part analytic framework investigating the emergence and maintenance of power imbalances vested in the dominant Western health care system. This paper deploys the LEARN analytic framework to examine how the colonial encounter has resulted in a severe disruption of traditional approaches to health and healing. As an analytic framework, LEARN has broad applications in assisting health care scholars in considering the various complexities of the Indigenous-Settler interface, including examining the implications of colonial contact for Indigenous health and wellness, a look at emergent recommendations to ameliorate poor health outcomes and strategies to resolve power disparities at an institutional and individual level.
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