A professor at Dalhousie University wants to know how culture and pride affect the health and well-being of Indigenous people living in Halifax.
Amy Bombay, an assistant professor in the psychiatry and nursing departments at Dalhousie, is conducting research into the issue in partnership with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre.
“We’re inviting all Indigenous peoples to take part and tell us about their experiences of being an Indigenous person here in Halifax and about what it means to them being Indigenous,” Bombay said.
The research is part of the clay tile mural project, “This Is What I Wish You Knew,” that was unveiled at the friendship centre on National Aboriginal Day on June 21. Fifty people who self-identified as Indigenous created clay tiles to illustrate their Indigenous heritage to the general public. The participants also posted videos online to explain their tiles and themselves.
“In the community arts project, we had a lot of interesting information come out on what factors play into pride and cultural pride,” Bombay explained.
“We heard a lot of people talk about things like colour, about being white, about being dark and how that influences your indigeneity,” she said. “How just living in an urban setting in the city leads to some questions about authenticity, about indigeneity because we’re often thought about as being from the rez.”
From what the participants involved with the clay tile project told Bombay, she created a survey aimed at both Indigenous and non-Indigenous living in Halifax.
“We want to explore those issues more in the research and then try to come out with some reports that really talk about these issues and how they are related to well-being,” she said.
So far, nearly 200 non-Indigenous people from Halifax have filled out Bombay’s survey. Bombay says she still needs between 125-150 more Indigenous people aged 18 and over living in the city to fill out the survey before she can move on to the next phase of the research.
Pride in culture protects individuals from effects of discrimination
Once the surveys are complete, Bombay will then conduct more in depth research by assembling focus groups. With the non-Indigenous group, she hopes to have them look at the videos that participants with the clay tile project created.
“We’re going to assess … how those videos and stories impact them and see if they make any changes in attitudes and perceptions over time,” she explained.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to see what’s different, what’s the same and how we can really bring these two groups together,” she said.
Bombay, who is Anishinaabe with the Rainy River First Nation in northern Ontario, has been conducting research into the well-being of Indigenous peoples since she arrived at Dalhousie University in 2014.
“In some of our research, we’ve shown that some of the strongest predictors of, for example, depressive symptoms among Indigenous peoples is one, perceived discrimination, that’s a common problem that leads to (more) problems,” Bombay said.
“But at the same time, when we look at factors that protect against those negative effects, it’s things like cultural pride, it’s things like taking part in cultural activities, it’s feeling good about your identity,” she said.
Bombay hopes to have her initial survey findings complete by late fall or early winter.