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The healing power of art: Indigenous artists bring to life Indigenous healthcare education resource

The healing power of art: Indigenous artists bring to life Indigenous healthcare education resource

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Indigenous artwork created for a new Queen’s healthcare education resource has a long, important story to tell. 

From discrimination and healthcare rights to Indigenous ways of healing, the collection of artwork serves as a visual way for healthcare learners to meaningfully engage with the TRC’s Calls to Action on the path to Reconciliation and health equity. 

Queen’s University recently launched the toolkit for students, faculty, administrators, and staff. Guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Actions on education, health, and education for Reconciliation, the resource features modules on key Indigenous healthcare themes – covering everything from historical perspectives and discrimination to culturally-safe practices. The art module highlights original work by Indigenous artists related to healthcare education and practice. This collection was created in collaboration with Indigenous artists from across Ontario, including those from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and the Wiikwemkoong Territory on Manitoulin Island.  

Artists submitted work that aligns with one or more of the themes of the digital collection: Historical Perspectives of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and Implications for Health Outcomes; Biases, Racism, and Discrimination in Healthcare; Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Healthcare; Healthcare Rights; Healthcare Services; Culturally Safe Healthcare; and Intersections between Education and Healthcare.  

Hear the artists discuss their creations below. Their full testimonials and bios can be viewed at the accompanying links.


Grounded in Peace

“Grounded in Peace” by Lindsay Brant and Colson Brumwell 

Lindsay is an Educational Developer (Indigenous Pedagogies and Ways of Knowing) and an Adjunct Lecturer at Queen’s University; Colson is her 12-year-old son. They are Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Band, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario. 

Lindsay: In our worldview and understanding, education means healing, and healing requires balance of the self and commitment to living in a good way. To properly respond to the TRC Calls to Action, healthcare providers must ensure culturally appropriate care is provided and to do so, they must constantly learn about and engage with Indigenous ways of knowing and being which support wholistic wellbeing and healing.


Encircle the Tree

“Encircle the Tree” by Lindsay Brant and Mance Granberg 

Mance is an enrolled member of the Cowasuck Band of The Pennacook Abenaki People and a registered Practical Nurse. 

Lindsay: We wanted this piece to represent the fact that we are infinitely connected to each other, and Indigenous health and well-being is connected to every system. When one system is out of balance everything is affected. That is why it is important to not only address the physical aspects of our wellness, but also the mind, spirit, and heart. 


The Indigenous Ways of Healing

“The Indigenous Ways of Healing” by Jaylene Cardinal 

Jaylene Cardinal is an Indigenous artisan and the co-owner of W.C. Creatives based in Kingston, Ontario. She is also a current participant in the Kwe-Biz Program for Indigenous women entrepreneurs which is offered through the WE-CAN Project. 

Jaylene: The piece I created here is to represent "The Indigenous Ways of Healing" because wellness and healing start with you; your beliefs, your traditions, your ways of knowing. You make the choice and responsibility and put in the energy and commitment to healing and accepting help. The choice you choose is not only physical but mental, emotional, and spiritual. 


A Colourful Mind
A Colourful Mind

“A Colourful Mind” and “Mind, Body, Spirit” by Jamaica Cass

Jamaica Cass is a Mohawk artist and clinician. Her mother’s untimely death drove Jamaica not only to pursue a career in healthcare (MD and a PhD from Queen’s), but also seek traditional ways of healing both the body and the spirit. 

Jamaica: These two pieces of traditional Haudenosaunee beadwork were chosen to represent the intersection between education and healthcare.  

The first, "A Colourful Mind", depicts the sagittal view of a brain, using silver-lined seed beads in the six colours of the pride flag. Rather than six discrete segments of equal measure, each colour blends into its neighbor - a visual representation that the more we learn about gender and sexuality, the clearer it becomes that there is a fluidity to these concepts.  

Mind, Body, Spirit
Mind, Body, Spirit

The second piece, ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’, symbolizes the harmony traditional Haudenosaunee healers mean when describing health-less emphasis is placed on only a healthy body - the emotional, spiritual, and mental health all must be respected and attended to for a person to be truly well. 


It is What it is / Healing Through Addictions

“It is What it is / Healing Through Addictions” by Michael ‘Cy’ Cywink 

Hailing from Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Cy helps generations heal through expression and creation and is a valuable teacher about the power of art and community. 

Michael: I lost my youngest son to addictions this past August. I painted this work which addresses addictions related to needle use and how this relates to mental health and health care rights. The image inside the syringe is praying for help to and from the Spirits of his/her Ancestors. However sometimes it is the call of the addiction that carries their interest into one last hit. Which takes them from this Earth plane (from their Earth Walk) back into their Spirit Journey… while they still ask for help in and from their Spirit Being. 


Intergenerational Healing

“Intergenerational Healing” by Christarr Smillie 

Christarr Smillie is an Afro-Indigenous (Anishinaabe/Ojibway + Metis) contemporary artist and storyteller from Tkaronto, Turtle Island (Toronto, Canada).  

Christarr: Colonial violence, institutional oppression and the attempted erasure of Indigenous identities have created an impact felt over generations. Through this trauma, generations have become displaced from knowledge intended to encompass them in carefully curated health knowledge. It is now that we find ourselves reconnecting to that which was so carefully protected for generations. Carried underground, practiced in silence. We now openly reconnect while still healing the trauma of the past – in order to give a new gift to the future. The gift of health. 

Explore the entire Indigenous Healthcare and Practice: Applying Digital Teaching and Learning Resources to the TRC’s Calls to Action. The project was developed by the Office of Professional Development and Educational Scholarship (Queen’s Health Sciences) and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).

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