Social-relational understandings of health and well-being from an Indigenous Perspective

  • Richard Hovey Associate Professor, Division of Oral Health and Society, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University 3550 University Street, H3A 0C7 Montreal, QC. Canada
  • Treena Delormier Assistant Professor Office of Public Health Studies Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health University of Hawaii at Manoa (Oahu) Research Team and Community Advisory Board Member Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (Kahnawake, QC Canada)
  • Alex M McComber KSDPP Community Researcher & Community Advisory Board member Adjunct Professor Faculty of Education, Department of Integrated Studies in Integration McGill University Montreal, QC. Canada


This article presents the findings from a research project that examined how well-being, especially with regard to diabetes prevention, was understood within an Indigenous community, Kahnawà:ke, a Kanien’kehá:ka community on the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Both philosophical hermeneutics and Indigenous ways of knowing were used to achieve a decolonized research approach to undertaking and analysing interviews from key stakeholders. The research findings revealed that the social- conditions created by external Western influences on culture, language, and epistemologies are strongly connected to the relational conditions that continue to influence the health and well-being of individuals, families, and the community. Indigenous well-being was found to be closely related to the concept of being Onkwehon:we, to the roles and responsibilities of families as nurturers of health-promoting relationships, and to processes expected to promote the healing of multigenerational traumas rooted in a history of colonization. Developing a shared understanding of Indigenous people’s knowledge about what is required to effectively prevent type 2 diabetes, while simultaneously fostering the sense of being Onkwehon:we, is a new approach to health promotion within Indigenous communities.

Research Papers