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First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness

​​The First Nations Perspective on Health and ​Wellness aims to visually depict and describe the First Nations Health Authority Vision: Healthy, Self-Determining and Vibrant BC First Nations Children, Families and Communities.

This visual depiction of the Perspective on Health and ​Wellness is a tool for the​​​ FNHA and First Nations Communities. It aims to create shared understanding of an holistic vision of wellness. This image is just a snapshot of a fluid concept of wellness: it can be adapted and customized freely and is not confined to remain the same.

The original image was created from researching other models; from feedback and ideas gathered from BC First Nations over the past few years and from traditional teachings and approaches shared by First Nations healers and elders at gatherings convened by the FNHA and its predecessor - the First Nations Health Society. This representation was developed by the FNHA with input from our Federal and Provincial government partners to create the Wellness Streams.

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Understanding the Perspective on Health and Wellness

The Centre Circle represents individual human beings. Wellness starts with individuals taking responsibility for our own health and wellness (whether we are First Nations or not).

The Second Circle illustrates the importance of Mental, Emotional, Spiritual and Physical facets of a healthy, well, and balanced life. It is critically important that there is balance between these aspects of wellness and that they are all nurtured together to create a holistic level of well-being in which all four areas are strong and healthy. 

The Third Circle represents the overarching values that support and uphold wellness: Respect, Wisdom, Responsibility, and Relationships. All other values are in some way essential to the four below:

Respect is about honouring where we come from: our cultures, traditions, and ourselves. Respect is intergenerational. It is passed on through our communities and families. It is the driving force of the community because it impacts all of our life experiences including our relationships, health, and work. It is defined as consideration and appreciation for others, but there is also recognition that respect is so much more in First Nations communities: it entails a much higher standard of care, consideration, appreciation and honour and is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our people. There is an intuitive aspect to respect, because it involves knowing how to be with oneself and with others.

Wisdom includes knowledge of language, traditions, culture, and medicine.  Like respect, wisdom is an understanding that is passed on by our ancestors from generation to generation and has existed since time immemorial. It is sacred in nature and difficult to define.

Responsibility is something we all have: to ourselves, our families, our communities, and the land.  Responsibility extends not just to those with whom we come into contact or relate - but also to the roles we play within our families, our work, and our experiences in the world.  Also entailing mutual accountability and reciprocity, responsibility intersects with many areas of our lives, and involves maintaining a healthy, balanced life as well as showing leadership through modelling wellness and healthy behaviours.

Relationships sustain us.  Relationships and responsibility go hand in hand. Like responsibility, relationships involve mutual accountability and reciprocity.  Relationships are about togetherness, team-building, capacity building, nurturing, sharing, strength, and love. Relationships must be maintained both within oneself and with those around us. 


 

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​The Fourth Circle depicts the people that surround us and the places from which we come: Nations, Family, Community, and Land are all critical components of our healthy experience as human beings.

Land is what sustains us physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.  We use the land for hunting, fishing, and gathering.  The land is where we come from and is our identity.  It is more than just the earth.  It includes the ocean, air, food, medicines, and all of nature.  We have a responsibility to care for the land and to share knowledge of the land with our people.  Land and health are closely intertwined because land is the ultimate nurturer of people.  It provides not only physical but emotional and spiritual sustenance, because it inspires and provides beauty; it nurtures our souls.

Community represents the people where we live, where we come from, and where we work.  There are many different communities: communities of place, knowledge, interests, experiences, and values. These all have a role in our health. 

Family is our support base, and is where we come from.  There are many different kinds of families that surround us, including our immediate and extended families.  For First Nations people, family is often seen as much broader than many Western perspectives. Our immediate and extended families are often interchangeable, so Western descriptions and definitions don't always apply.  Our families may also include who we care for, support systems, and traditional systems in addition to (or instead of) simply blood lines. It is important to recognize the diversity that exists across British Columbia, that there are different family systems that exist (e.g. matrilineal).

Nations include the broader communities outside of our immediate and extended families and communities. In essence, Nation is an inclusive term representing the various Nations that comprise your world.

The Fifth Circle depicts the Social, Cultural, Economic and Environmental determinants of our health and well-being.

Social determinants such as security, housing, food, prevention, promotion, education, health awareness, and outreach supports, are all critical aspects of our health and well-being.

Environmental determinants include the land, air, water, food, housing, and other resources that need to be cared for and considered in order to sustain healthy children, families and communities.  Safety and emergency preparedness are critical components.

Cultural determinants include language, spirituality, ceremonies, traditional foods and medicines, teachings, and a sense of belonging.

Economic determinants include resources which we have a responsibility to manage, share, and sustain for future generations.  There is a need to create balance in how we use our resources and a need for good leadership to help us create this balance.

The people who make up the Outer Circle represent the FNHA Vision of strong children, families, elders, and people in communities.  The people are holding hands to demonstrate togetherness, respect and relationships, which in the words of a respected BC elder can be stated as "one heart, one mind."  Children are included in the drawing because they are the heart of our communities and they connect us to who we are and to our health.

The colors of the sunset were chosen specifically to reflect the whole spectrum of sunlight, as well as to depict the sun's rotation around the earth which governs the cycles of life in BC First Nations communities.

 

Background 

The First Nations Perspective on Health and ​Wellness started as a draft visual concept of wellness created by the Traditional Wellness Working Group and staff and advisors from the FNHA. The visual model and description was presented to BC First Nations at Gathering Wisdom V in May 2012.  The feedback gathered at Gathering Wisdom V was then incorporated into the current visual model and description. The First Nations Perspective on Health and ​Wellness is intended to serve as a starting point for discussion by First Nations communities on what they conceptualise as a vision of wellness for themselves and the FNHA. 

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