The Ninth Gathering of Healing Our Spirit Worldwide: Building once in a lifetime connections



​The Ninth Gathering of Healing Our Spirit Worldwide (HOSW) Reflection and Learning Report is now available on the First Nations Health Authority's (FNHA) website. The report shares the learnings and impacts of this important gathering. The reflection and learning report helps future hosts plan and share the messages of the Gathering and to sustain and grow the HOSW Movement.

The FNHA, the First Nations Health Directors Association and the First Nations Health Council hosted the Ninth Gathering of HOSW between September 11 and 15, 2023, in Vancouver, BC, on the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱ wu7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. The Ninth Gathering saw 3,726 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from Canada, the continental US, Aotearoa, Australia, Hawaii and other countries came together.

HOSW started in 1992 from one woman's vision to create an international forum for alcohol and drug use issues among Indigenous communities. HOSW has since evolved into a cultural and spiritual movement, celebrating the strength and resiliency of Indigenous peoples, along with traditional and cultural practices around health and wellness.

The Gathering is now about sharing and transferring knowledge; creating opportunities to learn and work together across Indigenous communities and leaders. It demonstrates Indigenous futures are intimately linked to language, culture and practices and ultimately, is an opportunity to celebrate global Indigenous cultures.

The Ninth Gathering had a busy daily schedule with keynote speakers, 60 sessions, 21 plenary or moderated gatherings and 38 workshops. The keynotes covered topics related to health and wellness, strength and resilience, health innovation and transformation, and health governance and leadership.

Additionally, there were also many cultural activities during the day and evening. These events included the Parade of Nations, the pipe ceremony, the Passing of the Canoe, a special dinner event, film nights, a weaving night, plant medicine-making and a three host Nations workshop. They gave participants an opportunity to build spiritual, cultural and emotional connections with a broader Indigenous community. For many, these connections were “once in a lifetime," “unbelievable" and “powerful."


Additional quotes:

  • “So excited to see cohesiveness and collectiveness to heal and strengthen the whole."
  • “We have come a long way, but the journey must continue."
  • “We are just starting to wake up to listen and do what our ancestors left behind."
  • “That we are all equal and together we are stronger."
  • “Accept that we were never powerless, colonization tried to take this from us. We are the land. We are the authentic original peoples, we are co-created with God, now is our time. We will lead in the healing of the world."
  • “Everything begins within, it starts with you."
  • “This Gathering has changed the way I think, the way I feel and reignited my passion for re-indigenizing myself, my family, my community and my Nation."
  • “It was very powerful with all our peoples sharing culture, language, energy and identity. I believe Creator and our ancestors were present and ensured we felt their presence."

An overwhelming majority of respondents agreed the Gathering was a positive experience:

  • 90% of survey respondents stated they connected with and learned from others at the Gathering
  • 79.9% of survey respondents stated they participated in cultural sharing and knowledge exchange
  • 78.4% survey respondents stated they made connections and developed relationships
  • 73.7% stated they connected with Elders and youth at the Gathering

The National Indian Health Board is hosting the Tenth Gathering of Healing Our Spirits Worldwide in Washington, D.C. in 2026.​

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