Even before the Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s (NOSM’s) Charter MD class walked through the doors in 2005, the School engaged First Nations and Métis peoples from communities across Northern Ontario as part of its mandate to be accountable to the cultural diversity of the region.
Indigenous organizations were at the forefront of the widespread community movement advocating for the establishment of NOSM. Indigenous Partnership Gatherings were established as a way to ensure that Indigenous Peoples of Northern Ontario have regular opportunities to provide formative input into the School’s administration, education and research. The Gatherings regularly bring together stakeholders from treaty organizations, Elders, physicians, nurses and other health-care professionals with experience in Indigenous health settings to learn from their invaluable experience, and hear their feedback and ideas to move the School forward.
This timeline traces the history of the School’s Indigenous Partnership Gatherings, from the first Gathering in 2003 to the present.
In June of 2003, NOSM hosted its first Indigenous Partnership Gathering in the Anishnaabeg community of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation, near Kenora. The three-day gathering brought together over 130 delegates from Indigenous communities across the North. The report from this first Gathering served as a blueprint for the establishment of the Indigenous Affairs Unit and the Indigenous Reference Group, as well as the development of partnerships with Indigenous communities so that all NOSM medical students have a mandatory four-week cultural immersion experience in their first year.
NOSM and our Indigenous partners came together for the second time at Fort William First Nation in August 2006, after the School’s Charter Class had just completed their four-week immersive Indigenous community placement. Nearly all of the Indigenous Local Community Coordinators were on hand to share their experiences of having medical students in their communities.
In 2008, NOSM hosted its first Indigenous Research Gathering in Thunder Bay. This Gathering provided an opportunity for Indigenous peoples and health researchers—including researchers who themselves are Indigenous—to come together to acknowledge past experiences, conduct ceremonies for healing, generate future opportunities for positive and respectful relationships between Indigenous communities and researchers, and plan a new and positive path forward.
NOSM and the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) co-hosted the School’s third Indigenous Partnership Gathering in May 2011 in Sudbury. The MNO and NOSM have a range of common goals, and following the opening of the workshop, the two organizations officially announced and signed a historic collaboration agreement.
In August 2014, Chapleau Cree First Nation hosted NOSM’s fourth Indigenous Partnership Gathering. NOSM senior leaders, faculty and staff gathered to report on the tangible progress NOSM had made in implementing recommendations from previous partnership gatherings, and sought recommendations about how the School could refine its practices, activities and outcomes to ensure that NOSM continues to meet the needs of Indigenous peoples across Northern Ontario.
NOSM’s Indigenous Affairs Unit held a historic Elder’s Gathering on the traditional lands of Fort William First Nation in 2015, bringing together Elders from First Nations and Métis communities across Northern Ontario. The Elders discussed the purpose, function and responsibility of NOSM Elders and those on the Council of Elders. Through sharing and discussion, it was decided that the newly formed Ogichidaang Gagiigatiziwin—NOSM’s Circle of Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers—will be guided in their work by the Seven Grandfather teachings: Nibwaakaawin (wisdom); Zaagi’idiwin (love); Minaadendamowin (respect); Aakode’ewin (bravery); Gwayakwaadiziwin (honesty); Dabaadendiziwin (humility); and, Debwewin (truth).
NOSM welcomed delegates from Indigenous communities of Northern Ontario to the second Indigenous Research Gathering in 2016 in Sault Ste. Marie on the traditional lands of the Anishinabek Peoples of Baawaating. The two-day Gathering was organized to review past and present research practices, what researchers have learned about the important aspects of conducting Indigenous community research, and also reflect on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as they relate to research.
On June 28, 2017, NOSM’s Indigenous Affairs Unit and Research Office co-hosted a one-day workshop on the traditional territory of the Fort William First Nation. Bringing together youth, Elders, community leaders and government representatives, the workshop focused on strategies to promote life and life skills, as well as addressed the strengths of the communities, in order to address the crisis of youth suicide.
The fifth Indigenous Partnership Gathering will be hosted near Kenora.