sherilee harper

EcoHealth Research with Indigenous Communities

Student Reflection: ArcticNet ASM 2015 – Vancouver, BC December 7-11, 2015

Written by Manpreet Saini, MSc Candidate

This past week I was fortunate enough to attend and participate in the ArcticNet Scientific Meeting. This conference was overall, a great experience and I probably will not be able to do my experience justice with the following reflection. The week started with Student Day on Monday and I was privileged to attend the workshop titled “How Researchers Can Maximize Engagement with Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Communities”. This workshop was led by Shelly Elverum, Eric Solomon, and Inuit individuals including, Mia Otokiak, Coral Westwood, and Andrew Arreak. The most interesting part of the workshop was an activity that demonstrated the difference in worldviews and perceptions when thinking of issues Northern Inuit communities face. First, the audience had to list issues that we believed were
important to Northern Inuit communities. Following this the Inuit youth listed the issues their communities had identified. While some of the things listed by each group were similar to one another, some were different. For instance, the Inuit communities were quite concerned with garbage collection and yet the researchers did not have this on their list. It was humbling to see this difference and it was a reminder of the importance to understand different worldviews without projecting your own worldview as the only “true” worldview. It was a great discussion session that made me once again reflect on the importance of the language that researchers use and the way in which researchers approach projects for Inuit communities.

Over a period of time on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, we had the opportunity to participate in two poster presentation sessions. These sessions allowed us to interact with individuals from various backgrounds and share our research as well as learn about research in areas outside of our own. For topical sessions, I had the pleasure of sitting in talks regarding the one health approach and knowledge co-production. Through these presentations it was wonderful to see the variety of projects incorporating human, animal and environmental health and also the inclusion of Inuit community members within these projects.

On Wednesday night there was also a scheduled cultural night. There were tables set up where you could learn and participate in a variety of traditional activities such as beading, making a seal skin bracelet and playing traditional games. Luckily, we got a chance to participate in making a seal skin bracelet, which was a very neat experience!

Finally, on Thursday I did an oral presentation for the first time which was both exciting and extremely nerve-wracking. However, I had tremendous support through an extremely thoughtful Facebook post from Inez Shiwak, who unfortunately could not be there to co-present with me, and through the presence of many familiar faces in the room!

Throughout the week, I had the chance to both reconnect with collaborators and to meet various new individuals. Overall, ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting was just an incredible experience and it was an honour to be able to participate and share our work on behalf of myself and my co-authors.

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