Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence

  Aboriginal Women, Water and Health: Reflections from Eleven First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Grandmothers


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Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence
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The research and publication of this study were funded by the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE). The PWHCE is financially supported by the Centre of Excellence for Women's Health Program, Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis, Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the PWHCE or the official policy of Health Canada.

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Kim Anderson


The Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women's Health (ACEWH) and Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE) have recently been collaborating on research concerning Aboriginal women and water. After conducting a literature review about Aboriginal women and water and a review of data for a boil water advisory mapping project, the Centres determined that cultural and community-based knowledge would add a valuable component to their exploration of Aboriginal women, water and health. They commissioned researcher Kim Anderson to interview Aboriginal Grandmothers1 and write a paper on the subject. Dr. Anderson interviewed Grandmothers from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nunavut while Libby Dean (working with ACEWH) and Roberta Stout of PWHCE contributed to the research by conducting interviews with women in Labrador and Alberta. Executive Directors Barbara Clow (ACEWH) and Margaret Haworth-Brockman (PWHCE) served as co-principal investigators on the project, providing guidance and leadership.


This project involved interviewing a small number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Grandmothers from across Canada. Participants for the project were chosen from different regions of Canada and different Indigenous nations so as to explore the diversity as well as the commonalities among Aboriginal women and their relationships with water. We were, thus, able to capture the reflections of women who were raised with different types of water, including oceans, prairie creeks and rivers, the Great Lakes and glaciers. The cultures that these women come from are as diverse as the land they are based in, but there are common approaches that allow for the telling of a collective story and the possibility of collective action on a (Canadian) national scale.

Prior to conducting this research, approval was sought and received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Human Research Ethics Board of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In addition to the ethical standards set out by the board, Dr. Anderson, an experienced Indigenous researcher, approached the Grandmothers in accordance with protocols and current research standards for Indigenous communities. Verbal consent was secured from all participants at the time of the interview to confirm their agreement to participate in the interview and the research project. Verbal and written consent were received from all participants after they reviewed and assisted in the editing of the final version of the paper to ensure they were satisfied with the result.

Participants had the choice to participate anonymously or to be identified by name according to their wishes. This is in keeping with the principles of "Indigenous copyright" and is especially pertinent when working with Elders. In providing Indigenous knowledge, one typically identifies who they are and whom they got the knowledge from, much in the same way that scholars identify their written sources. This system of validating knowledge, acknowledges teachers and thinkers who have gone before, and ensuring that the line of knowledge keepers and knowledge transmission is maintained.

Methodology continued in full report
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1The term "Grandmothers" is used here to denote senior Aboriginal women who have taken up a degree of leadership and responsibility in their communities. I have capitalized "Grandmother" to indicate that the term is used to signify a position of authority or responsibility, rather than a biological actuality or role as grandparent to children within one's bloodline.

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