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In Canada language, culture key to improving the health of Aboriginal children

Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill is a Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, holds a PhD in cultural anthropology, lives on Six Nations and is one of the founders of the indigenous studies program at McMaster University.

Improving the health of Aboriginal children requires teaching them about their traditional languages and culture, says anthropologist Dawn Martin-Hill.

Martin-Hill was speaking to an indigenous children’s health symposium put on by university medical students Saturday at McMaster Innovation Park.

Its purpose was to examine why the quality of health of aboriginal children is so much worse than other young Canadians — and to consider solutions.

Ongoing and systemic racism within the medical profession was a major reason raised.

So too was a deep distrust of doctors by Aboriginals, something passed down through generations that stems from trauma at their hands in residential schools, or in practices such as sterilizing native women, Martin-Hill said.

And yet there was a time in history when the colonizers relied on aboriginal medicines, ways and traditions to survive, Martin-Hill pointed out.

Children and youth make up more than 48 per cent of Canada’s aboriginal population.

They suffer from higher rates of infant mortality, poverty, diabetes, tuberculosis and fetal alcohol syndrome than non-aboriginal children and lag in access to health care.

A 2009 UNICEF report on children ranked Canada third out of 177 countries in prosperity and welfare, but if the First Nations communities were considered on their own, the ranking slips to 68th.

Martin-Hill is a Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, holds a PhD in cultural anthropology, lives on Six Nations and is one of the founders of the indigenous studies program at McMaster University.

Read More:  nacchocommunique.com

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