Art Days in Nak’azdli
Art days evolved through intentional relationship with the Nak’azdli First Nation Band Council and Health Centre to engage art as a means of renewing, producing and exploring health and well-being in their community.
This project aims to expand a growing body of knowledge about the potential of arts and humanities to theorize, document, translate knowledge about, and potentially ameliorate health inequities lived by northern, rural and especially Indigenous peoples in British Columbia. Both the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the Provincial Health Officer of B.C. have documented that First Nations people residing on-reserve in British Columbia live with disproportionally high rates of ill-health when compared with non-Indigenous Canadians and Aboriginal peoples living off-reserve. Northern-interior British Columbia is no exception: many Indigenous people are survivors of residential schools – or are less than two generations removed from residential schooling – and many live on “Indian” Reserves allocated without treaties in the late 19th century. Social determinants of health theory, and a growing body of post and anti-colonial research, has established that sustained colonial interventions (such as social engineering, legislated disparities in access to services and resources, deterritorialization, and forced colonial education) directly and negatively impact(ed) Indigenous peoples’ contemporary well-being. A separate, but also burgeoning, body of research is establishing that the creative arts (writing, music, theater, narrative, visual arts) have an under-theorized but highly impactful and meaningful role to play in medical and health care, particularly for multiply marginalized people. Building on previous CIHR funded Research and Dissemination Grant, and on current Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) funding, both of which are focused on fine arts and Indigenous health, this project uses a social determinants of health framework and a narrative/artful medicine methodology to document and assess the potential impact of creative art production on improving feelings of well-being Nak’azdli residents. The research continues a successful partnership with the Nak’azdli Health Centre, who has invited us back in 2013, with the offer of the Nak’azdli Health Centre again assisting and supporting this work.
Creative Expression in Health and Healing
Elders and community members of Nak’azdli First Nation were invited into a creative space to make art and reflect on the connections between creative expression and health, place and health, and place and creative expression. The exploration of this interconnectedness provided insight into the utility and applicability of art as a mechanism for renewing health and well being in Nak’azdli through investing in communal creative spaces, bringing people together to heal, and allowing people to engage with otherwise difficult to express emotions, events and histories through artistic sharing of story, feelings, strengths and experiences.
Art Days reflections
People who came to create art at the Kwah Hall in Nak’azdli and on the shores of Stuart Lake used their paintings, drawings, music, story and movement to convey their personal and collective journey with health, healing and well-being. Many reflected on the experience as initially challenging, the idea of making art in a “public” way was at the fringes of their comfort zone for community interaction. However, as their artistic processes unfolded, the creative space became more familiar and inhabited by their own understandings of meaningful artistic expression.
“art is a freeing of the emotions and thoughts held within, whether good or bad. The release of them in a creative environment without limitations allows the body, mind, and soul to become free.”
Art Days is an ongoing creative community partnership between Nak’azdli First Nation and HARC that we hope will continue to explore and deepen the understanding around the role of the arts and creative expression to health and well-being in the north, particularly with Indigenous communities. These series of Art Days events have also provided undergraduate medical students with experiential education opportunities to learn about Nak’azdli as a northern First Nations community, and to understand the importance of culturally safe care in their future practice.
Pieces created at Art Days in Nak’azdli 2011-2013