Indigenous children and families are often misunderstood and mistreated by health care professionals – an issue at the heart of the Aboriginal Children’s Hurt & Healing (ACHH) Initiative. The ACHH Initiative is working with communities and clinicians to bridge the gap in our understanding of Indigenous children’s pain and hurt. Our team is a broad partnership, consisting of Indigenous community leaders, clinicians, Elders, youth, researchers from Dalhousie University, IWK Health and many more. Through research and strong community and clinician partnerships we are working to bridge the gap in our understanding of Indigenous children’s pain and hurt and ultimately, improve healthcare experiences.

Who are the Indigenous of Canada Kid
Who Are the Indigenous Peoples of Canada?

Who are the Indigenous Peoples of Canada?

Indigenous people are the first inhabitants of Canada and currently represent 4% of the Canadian population. The term ‘Indigenous’ is an inclusive term referring to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. Each unique group has distinct histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. Canada’s history with Indigenous people includes forced colonization efforts, systemic racism and historical trauma that has led to disproportionate negative health effects. Indigenous children have higher reported rates of dental pain, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), headaches, injury, musculoskeletal pain, and chest pain; yet they are less likely to be treated for these things.

‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’?

Over time the terminology to refer to the Indigenous Peoples in Canada has evolved. Since the 1980’s, the term ‘Aboriginal’ was the most accepted term, however many leaders and Elders of Indigenous communities felt that the term failed to fully recognize the diversity of Indigenous communities (Indigenous Innovations, 2017). Further to this, the ‘ab’ in Aboriginal translates to ‘away from’ or ‘not’ so this term fails to acknowledge the presence of Indigenous Peoples on the land prior to European settlers. In contrast, the term ‘Indigenous’ originates from the Latin word indigena, which translates to ‘sprung from the land’ (Bob, 2016) which emphasizes the legality of Indigenous Peoples’ land claims, autonomy, rights and treatment.

While Indigenous is the most culturally appropriate blanket term currently, Indigenous groups, like the Mi’kmaq (L’nu’k) or Wolastoqivik prefer to be called by their specific Nation’s name, which helps highlight the many unique languages and cultural practices associated with each individual Nation. As we become more aware of a specific Nation’s language and protocol, it is most respectful to follow their lead in how they would prefer to be called. If one does not know, it is highly encouraged to ask members of the Nation (personal communication, John R Sylliboy, April 7, 2021). For a more detailed explanation of the use of the terms click here.

The ACHH Logo

The ACHH Initiative Logo is a representation of contemporary and traditional perspectives. Designed by Kayla Rudderham, NSCAD graduate and 2014 ACHH summer student, the colours are meant to reflect the four Indigenous medicine wheel colors – red, yellow, black and white. The dual motif image was adapted from the double curve, or Aboodalooak, which is often seen in Indigenous artwork, carvings and symbolism. It is meant to be a symbol of balance and alliances as well as a representation of plants and medicinal herbs. To our team, the dual motif represents a coming together of two perspectives for growth and healing and symbolizes a child-like spirit which reminds the team of our overall goal –  to improve Indigenous children’s health and wellbeing.


ACHH Video: First Nation Community Health [5.03 minutes]

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