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Shkaakaamikwe gchi twaa miigwewin (Mother Earth’s Gifts): A national network for ending Indigenous illness and promoting Indigenous mental health and healing

Research Team

Principal Investigator: Suzanne Stewart, University of Toronto; Knowledge Users: Elder Clay Shirt, University of Toronto; Renee Linklater, The Centre for Addition and Mental Health, Toronto;

Co-applicants: Janet Smylie,  St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation; Roderick McCormick, Thompson Rivers University;Jeffrey Ansloos, University of Toronto; Alanaise Goodwill, Simon Fraser University (UBC); Angela Mashford-Pringle, University of Toronto; Amy Bombay, Dalhouse University; Lynn Lavallee, Ryerson University; Holly Graham, University of Saskatchewan; Jeffrey Schiffer, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto; Chantelle Richmond, University of Western Ontario; Maile M. Taualii, Kaiser Pemranente Centre for Health Research Hawaii; Brenda Restoule, First Peoples Wellness Circle (Nipissing First Nation); Michelle Dickson, University of Sydney (N.S.W., Australia); Henry Harder, University of Northern British Columbia; Christopher Mushquash, Lakehead University; Sandra Eades, University of Melbourne;

Collaborators: Pamela Hart, Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto;  Mikaela Gabriel, University of Toronto;  Michael Hart, University of Calgary; Elder Luana Shirt, University of Toronto; Elder Wendy Phillips, University of Toronto; Elder Pauline Shirt, University of Toronto;  Karlee Fellner, University of Calgary.

Research Coordinator: Roy Strebel

Research Assistants: Devon Bowyer, Adriana Gonzalez

NEIHR Poster

Supporting mino-bimaadizi- Poster

Objective & Rationale

Holistic Indigenous Mental Health and Wellness: Transforming Health Care Strengths and Solutions (HIMHW) is a network of academic and Indigenous partnerships designed to transform how the health care system responds to Indigenous mental illness for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. HIMHW will be situated in at least 10 sites in Ontario, and will create a national shift from the current system response to Indigenous mental illness, which focusses on Western biomedical-based crisis and limited-term interventions and supports, to a coordinated strategic system that is based in Indigenous knowledges prevention. Indigenous mental illness is currently addressed by the health care system using Western biomedical-based interventions and models that are culturally inappropriate and ineffective in terms of symptoms reduction and remediation of diagnosis. Existing research has identified the service and structural barriers to Indigenous mental health and wellness. HIMHW will provide Indigenous knowledge solutions, for practice and policy, that will help redress and remove barriers. The team will develop a cultural evidence-based Indigenous research network to improve mental wellness by generating data that shows that illness and crisis can be prevented with traditional knowledges, cultural safety, and Indigenous science, when applied to health systems.

Research Themes and Methodology

The HIMHW program of research and knowledge translation has been developed on evidence gained from national and local contexts, which present doable and pragmatic solutions to Indigenous mental health and wellness. Consultation with the research team, community partners, and policy makers was undertaken in 2019; the process and outputs of the network are organized through a co-created and collaborative Indigenous community-engaged research plan guided by six interwoven themes:

  • Cultural safety
  • Indigenous holistic prevention and early intervention
  • Land based and planetary health solutions
  • Healing from trauma and reducing addictions
  • Enhancing wellbeing and eliminating suicide
  • Translating Indigenous knowledges data into practice and policy

Each research theme is a vessel for innovation developed by research projects organized around key subthemes to be determined and designed by community partners as the research plan develops in detail in Years 1 and 2. In each of the six research theme areas, which will be carried out in a converging manner (see Figure 1), the network will iteratively develop and test new theories, ideas, practices, interventions, and policies in order to immediately prevent current tragedies in youth suicide, depression, opioid crises, family violence, missing and murdered Indigenous women, and other mental health emergencies across Indigenous Canada. Methodologically, all research by the network will be grounded in an Indigenous conceptual epistemological framework as required by Smith (1999). For HIMHW, this is Two-Eyed Seeing (Martin, 2012), that brings together the strengths of Indigenous and Western ways of knowing to the research process, procedures, and outputs.

Student Training & Mentoring

Over the five years of the network, a total of 130 new and emerging scholars will be mentored by the  team across each university site. There will be post-doctoral fellows (PDFs), an Indigenous central research coordinator, and inclusion of student thesis and dissertation as part of the training/ mentorship plan; it is anticipated that 5 PDFs (1 per year); 15 PhDs (3 per year), 30 Masters; MPH, MSc-Epi & MSW, MAs (10 per year), 40 undergrad students (10 per year), and 40 CRAs (10 per year as summer students) will be involved in the network’s research plan across all of the universities and its associated research activities— divided equally across the academic sites. By collaborating with co-leaders and community partners, we will seek equal representation of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and Two- Spirit/Transgender identities, and a balance between individuals from reserve and urban contexts, as determined by Elders and Knowledge Keepers. The Masters and PhD student trainings involved will participate in Indigenous Mentorship Network of Ontario (Dr. Chantelle Richmond) activities in collaboration with the IMNO and across the team to create cohorts for training, mentorship, and knowledge translation activities for the network. Further, all academic student trainees, including CRAs and Traditional Knowledge Keepers Teachers will participate in various online training opportunities such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) offered at co- applicants’ universities, and a World Indigenous Health Course co-taught by the nominated PI, Dr. Stewart and other interested team members, and delivered online by the WBIIH and the University of Sydney (Dr. Michelle Dickson), and various land-based research-intensive courses offered across Ontario. Training and mentoring from Indigenous Elders and academic experts will take place at every local team workshop training meeting three times per year, but also separately occurring in a yearly gathering of advanced training (detailed below) for all network members. Training and travel grants will be provided to students and community partners through both the IMNO and HIMWM and are integral to the success of student mentoring and authentic collaborations with communities.

Impacts, Outcomes and Reports

Through research at localized and national levels, and by working in partnerships across health systems and governments, our research plan will spurn and facilitate transformation in Canada’s response to Indigenous mental illness, thereby creating better economic and health outcomes in the short and long term including:

  • Indigenous knowledges data and evidence-based programs and interventions that will transform how health services respond to Indigenous mental illness, measurable through a reduction in mental illness and an increase in mental health and wellness;
  • Ensuring Indigenous languages, diverse Indigenous cultures and identities, and land-based and planetary health solutions are developed and adopted throughout systems of health care in programs, interventions, and policy;
  • Decolonizing Canadian society so that it enables marginalized and oppressed Indigenous peoples, to be able to access mental health services that successfully remediate mental illness and stabilize them in permanent mental health and healing, and to become connected with community and society, thus able to achieve their full potential in life; &
  • Situating Canada as a global leader in preventing and ending Indigenous mental illness.

The overarching goal is to end Indigenous mental illness and support health and wellness through deep and dynamic transformation to health care system programs, interventions, and policy with national and international reach and impacts.


Ontario NEIHR Annual Report 2022(Jacob) V4

ON NEIHR and IMN-ON Fall Gathering Report 2020
Spring Gathering 2021: Summary and Event Evaluation
Ontario Network for Environment in Indigenous Health Annual Report

NEIHR Monthly Webinar Information

What is the Speaker Series?

It is a monthly speaker series of one-hour online (virtual) live webinars with Ontario Network for Environment Indigenous Health Research (ON NEIHR) team members who are Indigenous Academics and Knowledge Keepers speaking on topics of Indigenous community mental health research, moderated by ON NEIHR Nominated Principal Investigator (NPI) Suzanne Stewart or Knowledge User Elder Clayton Shirt. The ON NEIHR webinar  mental health speaker series are coordinated by Research Assistant Devon Bowyer, NPI Suzanne L Stewart, and Research Coordinator Roy Strebel.

Why does the Speaker Series occur?

In the spirit of relationship building between Indigenous community organizations, policy makers, student and faculty academics, and the wider Indigenous community, the ON NEIHR hosts this monthly webinar speaker series to ground its activity in Indigenous community driven research. The ON NEIHR research team honors the importance that Indigenous community organizations and partner relationships have on their work, and strives to centre academic activity in cultural and spiritual frameworks.

Seasonal Newsletters

ON NEIHR Fall Newsletter - pdf
NEIHR Seasonal Newsletter Spring Edition 02 June 2022

Archive of ON-NEIHR Monthly Webinars

Rewatch our Monthly Webinars Here:

September 2020 Webinar with Traditional Knowledge Keepers Clayton Shirt and Luana Shirt-


October 2020 Webinar with Dr. Alanaise Goodwill and Dr. Jeannie Morgan-

November 2020 Webinar with Dr. Suzanne Stewart

December 2020 Webinar with Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle-

January 2021 Webinar with Dr. Lynn Lavallee-

February 2021 Webinar with Dr. Michael Hart-

March 2021 Webinar with Dr. Holly Graham-

April 2021 Webinar with Dr. Jeffrey Ansloos

May 2021 Webinar with Dr. Rod McCormick–

July 2021 Webinar with Dr. Maile Tauali’i-

September 2021 Webinar with Dr. Mikaela Gabriel –

October 2021 Webinar with Dr. Jeffrey Schiffer –

November 2021 Webinar with Steve Teekens –

December 2021 Webinar with Dr. Brenda Restoule –

January 2022 Webinar with Dr. Sabina Mirza –

February 2022 Webinar with Elder Wendy Phillips –

April 2022 Webinar with Katie Big-Canoe and Dr. Chantelle Richmond –

May 2022 Webinar with Dr. Christopher Mushquash –

June 2022 Webinar with Dr. Henry Harder and Dr. Jessie King –

July 2022 Webinar with Dr. Renee Linklater –

September 2022 Webinar with Knowledge Keeper Luana Shirt –

October 2022 Webinar with Pamela Hart and Dr. Suzanne Stewart –

November 2022 Webinar with Dr. Mikaela Gabriel and Sarah Ponton –

January 2023 Webinar with Dr. Janet Smylie –

Dr. Jeffrey Ansloos & TeamIndigenous Suicide Risk Assessment in the Canadian Context: Literature Review –

Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle – What We Heard – Indigenous Peoples and Covid-19 Report Launch – 2021 –

Dr. Suzanne Stewart – Indigenous Data Analysis Workshop 2022 –

Dr. Suzanne Stewart – Indigenous Dissemination & Knowledge Translation Workshop 2022 –

Rewatch our Indigenizing Health Symposium 2020

Day 1:

Day 2:

Theme Group Updates

Theme Group 3: Land-Based and Planetary Health Solutions

Theme Group 4: Healing from Trauma and Reducing Addictions

Theme Group 5: Indigenous Suicide Prevention and Crisis Support

Theme Group 6: Translating Indigenous Knowledges into Policy

Theme Group/Elders Meeting Minutes


Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR)

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Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health

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