A three-year collaborative research project looking at Indigenous maternal health care in Canada has received a total of $810,901 in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The project, titled Welcoming the ‘Sacred Spirit’, aims to embrace and include Indigenous knowledge, values, teachings and stories. Aurora Research Institute Manager of Health Research Programs and Aurora College instructor Dr. Pertice Moffitt is a co-investigator on the research project.

The project, however, will be managed by the University of Manitoba with the principal investigators being Assistant Professor Kellie Thiessen and Katherine Whitecloud, a Traditional Knowledge Keeper of the Wipazoka Wakpa Dakota Nation.

Thiessen claims the project is about connecting Indigenous and Western ‘ways of knowing’ to optimize maternal health service delivery initiatives in remote Canadian regions.

“Through research, we learned that the sacred spirit, the spirit of a child, has been taken out of the remote communities here in Manitoba and across the country and this has had a detrimental impact on the overall community.”

Whitecloud adds that what’s happened is children have become disconnected. Being connected to extended family is important for a child’s ‘knowing’, or what Western research has termed ‘genetic memory’.

“I have that knowing from my ancestors, where I instinctively know how to manage a situation, and that knowledge remains with me. It’s all the basic teachings you need to function in life and survive in life.”