Contemporary Perceptions of Health from an Indigenous (Plains Cree) Perspective

Holly Graham, Lynnette Leeseberg Stamler


Currently, there is limited literature demonstrating awareness of how contemporary Aboriginal Peoples understand and define health, address their health concerns, and perceive barriers to obtaining optimal health. This knowledge is an important and essential first step in program planning for delivering effective health care for all aspects of health. An additional challenge is to effectively address and meet these needs in a timely manner which is critical to overall Indigenous wellness. The primary researcher, who is Indigenous (Plains Cree), wondered whether the social determinants of health were reflective and an appropriate framework to address the existing health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, and more specifically, the Plains Cree people from Thunderchild First Nation. This paper examines the results from a qualitative descriptive research study completed in Thunderchild First Nation, Saskatchewan. There were four predominant themes that were derived from the data: health was consistently described in relation to physical, mental (intellectual), emotional, and spiritual wellness; value of health; factors related to the environment; and factors related to economics. Collectively, there does appear to be a holistic perception of health, similar to the teachings from the Medicine Wheel. Pursuing and maintaining health included a combination of information and practices from both the western and Traditional Indigenous world. This data supports that the determinants of health may be an appropriate framework to address the health needs of Indigenous Peoples, and an appropriate frame for federal, provincial and local policy makers to implement structural changes necessary to decrease the health disparities between the Indigenous Peoples and the rest of Canada.


Aboriginal, determinants of health, First Nations, health, health beliefs, health perceptions, health practices, Indian, Indigenous, Medicine Wheel, racism



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