Digital Storytelling as an Indigenous Women’s Health Advocacy Tool: Empowering Indigenous Women to Frame Their Health Stories

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: health, social sciences, traditional healing, traditional medicine

Principal Investigator: Wiart, Shelley M (1)
Licence Number: 16553
Organization: Athabasca University
Licenced Year(s): 2019
Issued: May 31, 2019
Project Team: Still to be hired (Summer Research Assistant , Aurora College )

Objective(s): To understand Indigenous women’s traditional knowledge and healing practices, and how/if they use them on a regular basis.

Project Description: Expected outcomes include: 1) Clarification on Indigenous women's traditional knowledge and healing practices, and how/if they use them on a regular basis; 2) an understanding of common traditional healing practices and medicines Indigenous women, from a variety of backgrounds, are using for themselves and their families; 3) Indigenous women sharing their digital stories with non-Indigenous community members and health care providers to create more cultural understanding of Indigenous healing practices; 4) Indigenous women’s opportunity to present an asset based story of their own culture and community thereby offering a form of healing for themselves and their community; 5) the opportunity for Indigenous women to be their own advocates through digital storytelling, and share how this experience shaped their views on their culture, communities, health stories and future engagement with health care providers.

The Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) digital storytelling workshop and production will take place May-June 2019 and in Yellowknife July-August 2019. The location of these groups are important for several reasons: Onion Lake Cree Nation will include status First Nations women vs. Yellowknife’s urban population consisting of First Nations, Metis and Inuit women. The women will have access to different healthcare system (Alberta and Saskatchewan vs. Northwest Territories); they will share a variety of traditional healing practices from different cultural backgrounds. NWT has a 51.9% Indigenous population, whereas OLCN is located in an area where Indigenous peoples are a minority population (they make up 16% of the total population of Saskatchewan).

It is unknown how many participants will want to partake in this research. The Principle Investigator (PI) will plan for two participants from OLCN and a maximum of three participants from Yellowknife. With the help of the NWT research assistant, the research team may be able to do more stories. This project is an undergrad summer research project and not a Masters project so the PI do not want to be overwhelmed with data.

Phase One – Creation of Digital Stories. The PI will teach the participants the technical skills required to use the video camera and edit the footage. Help will be provided to them to clarify their message and keep the stories to a minimum of four minutes and a maximum of five minutes.

Phase Two – Community Knowledge Translation. The PI will prepare the digital storytelling participants for public speaking and organize a community knowledge translation event for them to present their own stories. It will be open to all community members and the PI will invite local health care providers. It cannot be guarantee they will show up, so the PI will not engage the health care providers in the research aspect of this project. However, the PI will be present for these events and take field notes on the reflections of the audience during the question period.

Phase Three – Participants Interviews. After the community knowledge translation presentation, the PI will interview the participants with the intention of learning what impact sharing their digital stories had on their lives.

Phase Four – Evaluation. The digital stories and interviews will be transcribed and coded for themes. The PI will come up with best practices for creating digital stories and setting up community knowledge translation events with Indigenous women. The PI will share the reflections from the qualitative field notes and the interactions with the participants. The intention is to take cues from these women and never to position the PI as the expert.


The purpose of the project is to allow Indigenous women to share their traditional knowledge and Indigenous healing practices in their daily lives, and conceptualize their own health care stories and service needs. It will also educate non-Indigenous peoples on what traditional healing practices are for different Indigenous groups and how to bridge the gap, between biomedical western medicine and traditional healing practices. These digital stories will allow for self-reflection on individual and collective views on Indigenous women’s health and advance the understanding of Indigenous wellness.

Furthermore, the PI will be hosting a knowledge translation event in Yellowknife mid-August for the participants of this project to showcase their digital stories. The PI has obtained a venue, catering and a Western Arctic Moving Pictures to record our Facebook live event. In addition, all the camera equipment that is purchased for the digital stories will stay in the NWT so that other interested researchers could access it from Hotiì ts’eeda. The research team will open the digital story presentation to the general public and invite local medical professionals to attend. This provides an opportunity for dialogue between the participants and local residents to create awareness surrounding barriers to accessing quality medical care, and/or more awareness around cultural safety for Indigenous peoples accessing the medical system.

The PI has been scheduled to present at the annual Hotiì ts'eeda - NWT Spor Support Unit conference that takes place May 2020. As well, the PI hopes to strengthen the relationship with the Institute for Circumpolar Health located in Yellowknife and search for opportunities to present the data through their networks.

The participants of this project have control over their digital stories, which the PI will give them on a memory stick to use as they wish.

With consent of the participants, their digital stories will be featured on the Women Warrior’s Club newsletter and added to the Women Warrior’s Club website, www.womenwarriors.club.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 5, 2019 to August 30, 2019.