LITTLE SALMON CARMACKS FIRST NATION: Sothän nats’oji do dän nän ka – Living the Good Life on Our Land

Undertaken from 2015-2018, this project was a partnership between Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (LSCFN) and the University of Guelph. It was designed to:

  • Identify language and well-being indicators meaningful to LSCFN citizens aligned with recognized social determinants of health.
  • Produce a questionnaire and tracking tools for monitoring changes in community well-being.
  • Collect data to provide insights into LCSFN well-being, potential mine development impacts, and inform programs, impact and benefit agreements (IBAs) and environmental assessments (EAs).
  • Share lessons with other northern communities.

LSCFN faces significant potential community change as a result of potential mine development. This project was seen as key in providing an accurate view, from an LSCFN worldview, of community health and well-being, identifying improvements and areas needing attention – including potential warning signs of emerging problems, assessing the effectiveness of health programs, understanding the relationship between cultural activity and well-being, and evaluating the impact of developments like mining on the community.

The methodology for the project was grounded in community protocols, processes, and relationships. This involved conducting interviews with a diverse range of citizens, including those at risk, single individuals, employable individuals, Elders, youth aged 18–25, as well as those who relied on traditional foods, came from large families, lived in Whitehorse, were highly marginalized, or faced significant challenges. These interviews explored participants’ connections to the land, their perceptions of health, expectations regarding mine development, concerns about mining’s historical and future impacts, and ideas about governance’s role in ensuring community well-being in the context of mining. Data were also collected from citizens at general assemblies and community events.

Through this process, 34 values were identified and presented back to the community for review, adaptation, and support.

These 34 values collectively represent the “good life on the land” from an LSCFN worldview and are the most critical to monitor for impacts through time. They are deeply interconnected and reflect a holistic approach to well-being that considers the teachings Dän Ki, or the “First Nation Way”.

The values are defined, with key considerations highlighted, and a set of data or indicators to track. For example, one of the values is “Community cohesion” – the importance of community gatherings for sharing culture, language, knowledge, and building memories. Key considerations in systemically advancing this value moving forward include: continuing to host regular community gatherings that focus on the cultural strengths of LSCFN; requiring cultural orientation, using existing LSCFN resources, for all employees, contractors, and industry who work with LSCFN; and, supporting staff and consultants to understand the relationship between lateral violence and the ongoing legacies of residential school and other traumas. Data or indicators to monitor about this value are:

  • Attendance at community events organized by LSCFN
  • Perceptions about ability to make suggestions or comments to leadership
  • Experiences of how respectful relationships are promoted in the community
Diagram depicting interconnected types of wellness.

This study has produced a longitudinal survey instrument as well as a data analysis instructions tool to support LSCFN to quickly analyze and use results.

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