School of Social Work,
Urban Aboriginal women, health, medicine wheel, identity, self-esteem, physical activity, martial arts
This article highlights the findings of a research project based on the medicine wheel teachings of balance between the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of oneself. Specifically, this traditional approach to understanding health was used to explore the impacts of physical activity on emotional, spiritual and mental well-being. Four female participants in a martial arts program at an urban Friendship Centre told their stories at two sharing circles. Afterwards, they were given six weeks to develop symbols that represented the meaning of the martial arts program to them and how it had impacted their lives. The participants named this second method “Anishnaabe Symbol-Based Reflection.” This article provides a brief overview of these Indigenous methods and explains how they were applied to this research project. The article then focuses on two key themes that emerged from the Aboriginal women’s stories: issues related to identity and to a sense of not deserving good things in life. The women described how they were able to work through some of their identity issues and their low sense of self-worth through their participation in the martial arts program.
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