What We Do
Our Urban Indigenous Health & Healing Cooperative followed our experiences with the Vancouver Indigenous Elders Partnership (VIP) program — a pilot implementation and research program that explored the impacts of providing access to Indigenous Elders as part of routine primary care within Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Evaluation of the VIP program demonstrated consistent positive impacts on wellbeing, mental health and decreased use of crisis-oriented Emergency Services. Participants in the VIP program voiced their demand to expand access to Indigenous Elders within the Downtown Eastside primary care system. We have answered their call.
After careful consideration, and out of care and respect for the community, we have taken the steps necessary to create a new Indigenous-focused health centre in the DTES that will uphold the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.
Our mission is to provide care to over 3000 individuals of all nations who face the challenges of inner-city living. Indigenous Peoples living in and around the DTES are heavily burdened by the intergenerational consequences of colonization including experiences in residential schools and the foster care system. From a health perspective, this burden is manifested by disproportionate rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, substance use disorder, physical injuries, chronic pain, diabetes, COPD, and stigmatizing infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Our mission is to offer a broad range of healing practices and programmes from both Indigenous and Western providers to address the physical, mental, spiritual and social health needs of our clients.
All of our actions and intentions are guided by the recommendations of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.
Our mandate is to provide culturally safe and effective care to patients of all nations as they journey towards better health. We are called to create a health system that exemplifies the best of what Indigenous health practices and contemporary primary care has to offer. We are dedicated to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action in Health (Health Actions 19-23):
19) To establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes.
20) To recognize, respect, and address the distinct health needs of the Métis, Inuit, and off-reserve Aboriginal peoples.
21) To be a centre that address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools and other institutions of colonialism.
22) To work collaboratively with those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders.
23) To recruit, mentor and retain Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field and to ensure that all healthcare professionals have the most up-to-date training in cultural safety and humility.
24) To work with local medical, nursing and allied health schools in British Columbia to ensure that future health care providers have received education on Aboriginal health issues, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights and Indigenous teachings and practices — requiring skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
Who We Are
Who We Are
Our cooperative is led by the wisdom and teachings of a respected group of Indigenous Elders. While existing primary care clinics across Canada attempt to make space for Indigenous Elders our cooperative has taken the revolutionary step of having Indigenous Elders lead and oversee the creation of a shared space for Indigenous and Western approaches to health and healing.
While other primary care clinics across Canada attempt to “make space” for Indigenous Elders, our cooperative is led by those Elders. We wanted to decolonize the process of care, beginning with an Indigenous foundation and continuing to be led and overseen by Indigenous Elders. Existing clinics have struggled to adopt even moderate changes to their model of care. We have taken the revolutionary steps necessary to establish a shared space for Indigenous and Western approaches to health and healing.
A respected circle of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers that has the earned wisdom of lived experience and many years of dedicated service to Indigenous communities, school boards, health authorities and universities.
We employ a diverse group of support workers and clinical staff with years of lived and professional experience working with Indigenous communities and providing culturally-safe health care. We currently have 24 staff members including family physicians, nurses, counsellors, social workers, outreach workers, Elders and Elder’s assistants.
Board of Directors
ELDER ROBERTA PRICE – Coast Salish, Snuneymuxw, and Cowichan Nations
Roberta is the mother of 4 children and grandmother to 8 beloved grandchildren.
She has worked for many years as an Elder for the Richmond, Delta & Burnaby School Districts where she has facilitated cultural teaching circles in lower mainland schools for 32 years and is also frequently called to support adult learners at the UBC Learning Exchange in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Roberta works closely with the Aboriginal Wellness Program at Vancouver Coastal Health where she is the Elder-in-Residence and works with the Aboriginal Patient Navigators Program to support patients in many Vancouver Coastal Health hospitals and health care centres. She also provides services traditional and healing services for the Elder Visiting Program at BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital and at St. Paul’s Hospital.
Roberta has worked with the UBC School of Nursing as an Adviser/Research Partner and Elder for over 10-years providing Indigenous leadership and support on research projects about women’s intimate partner violence, mental health and equity. She currently is a Co-Principal Investigator on a large CIHR funded study to improve care for Indigenous People in Emergency Units. She is the Elder for Critical Research in Health and Health Care Inequities (CRiHHI) School of Nursing, University of British Columbia and also sits as an Elder on the National Indigenous Council on Diabetes.
She is inspired to provide guidance and leadership on several community, equity-based and culturally-safe research projects and is now an adjunct clinical professor in the UBC Department of Family Medicine.
ELDER BONNI HANUSE – Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw Nations
Bonni is from Mamalilikala ( Village Island) of the Kwakwakw’wakw Nation from her maternal lineage. Paternally she is Coast Salish from Musqueam. She is the Mother of 3 children and Grandmother to 5 beloved Grandchildren.
Bonni started her healing journey 40-years ago exploring alternate therapies, including yoga, aromatherapy, body therapy, acupuncture reflexology, healing herbs, and recognition of food as Sacred medicine. Her return to traditional Aboriginal ceremonies 30 years ago led her to work at the Friendship Centres in both Vancouver and Vernon. She has also worked at Round Lake Treatment Centre, and for 4 different bands as well as for the Susila Lelum Residential project, Aboriginal Wellness Program at Vancouver Coast Health Authority and as an Elder at the UBC Summer Science Program. Most recently she spent 3-years working as an Elder at Vancouver Native Health Society medical clinic where she was involved in supporting clients, mentoring health professional students in culturally-safe approaches to care and participating in land-based ceremony whenever possible.
ELDER BRUCE ROBINSON – Nisga’a Nation
Bruce’s traditional name is Owii`lo`ly`eyum`gaudlth`ni`Ki`insque. (Grizzly Bear with a Big Heart). He comes from the Nisga’a people from the Wilp (house) of Nii’is’lis’eyan(our chief), Laxgiibuu (wolf) tribe, from the village of Gingolx (Kincolith) on the Nass River, and was raised in a traditional home. Bruce moved to the lower mainland in 1970 to attend school and has lived here ever since. He graduated high school in 1975/76 and has worked in the fishing industry for over 32 yrs.
Bruce has worked as an Elder with urban Indigenous youth with UNYA, as an advocate and Elder for families working with VACFSS and as an Elder with the medical team at Vancouver Native Health Society. He also provides traditional services for Metis Family Services and the Tsawwassen First Nation.
DR. COLLEEN VARCOE
Colleen is a professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on violence and inequity, with an emphasis on both structural and interpersonal violence. Her completed research includes studies of the risks and health effects of violence, including for rural and Indigenous women. Her current research includes studies to promote equity (including cultural safety, harm reduction, and trauma- and violence-informed care) in primary health care and Emergency and studies of health interventions for women who have experienced violence, most recently for Indigenous women. As an Indigenous person, not by virtue of a cultural upbringing but because her biological father was Indigenous, from the Cherokee Nation, Tulsa Oklahoma, and by virtue of her own experiences of race-based discrimination, Colleen considers it both a privilege and an obligation to further efforts to end violence against Indigenous women.
Maegen is a Partner at Ratcliff & Company where she at the began her career after clerking at the BC Court of Appeal, and spent several years working exclusively in all areas of aboriginal litigation including commercial disputes, fiduciary duty claims, reserve based claims, tort claims, consultation and accommodation and aboriginal rights and title claims. She also helped to develop inaugural laws for self-governance under treaty, including the establishment of one of the first indigenous dispute resolution tribunals in B.C. Her interest and experience in governance matters has expanded in recent years as she has broadened her legal practice to advising and representing local governments and others in public law matters. Maegen has also served as an expert panel member with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation’s Social Services Project and as a legal advocate for Indigenous children, parents and families.
DR. DAVID TU, MD
David is a Canadian Family Physician with a clinical focus on inner-city medicine, Aboriginal Health, and HIV. Dr. Tu grew up in Toronto, Canada, and attended medical school at McMaster University. He completed his residency in Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa, and went on to complete a 1-year Research Fellowship at the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Tu currently works as a clinician, researcher, and medical educator at the Vancouver Native Health Society Clinic and the UBC Aboriginal Family Practice Residency Stream. He has been the Physician Leader for the Vancouver Coastal Health STOP-HIV project and has previously worked as a Clinical Associate on the HIV ward at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital.
Dr. Tu is a Clinical Assistant Professor and former Community Based Clinical Researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Family Practice. Dr. Tu’s current research interests focus on issues related to improving systems of health care for Indigenous Peoples, with a focus on HIV, Hepatitis C, and Depression. His recent published research work has focused on application of the Chronic Care Model to HIV care, application of Self-Management support strategies for people with HIV, and partnership models of care between Traditional Indigenous and mainstream health care practices. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and his two children.
JENNIFER DEHONEY – Missanabie Cree First Nation
Jennifer is a certified Wellness/Health Coach and a consultant on a variety of Indigenous health initiatives. She has previously worked as a pediatric physiotherapist in Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver and with two Dene communities in northern Saskatchewan. She spent 3-years coordinating the Mmmooooooke Na Sii Yea Yeaaa (All my Relations) Program at the Vancouver Native Health Society Clinic in the Downtown Eastside, which was a partnership model of care between Indigenous Elders and Western-trained clinicians. She now works as a consultant for the Aboriginal Health team at Vancouver Coastal Health as an Indigenous Cultural Safety Facilitator and with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. Her professional work is dedicated to acts of reconciliation that create space, relationships and equity for Indigenous people within health and social justice environments. She lives on the unceded homelands of the Coast Salish people with her husband and their two young children.
Vancouver Coastal Health
Providence Health – Division of Family Practice
UBC Department of Family Practice
Located at 626 Powell St., our centre is a beautiful, Indigenized healing space that reflects the natural environment of Coast Salish Territory and is welcoming to people of all Nations.
We needed to develop an identity that not only spoke to local Coast Salish Nations, but is welcoming to the over 200 nations represented in the DTES. We also wanted a collaborative process that was indigenous-led, and thus Latash Nahanee, a well known Squamish Nation artist, was asked to lead the logo development process. He worked with our board and Elders to draft a logo that spoke to core elements of indigenous healing; medicine, place, land and nature.
Our creative team then used the draft sketches to create the final logo, which required full support of our Elders before moving forward.
During the brainstorming sessions these key elements were further refined to include the following:
They are now called the Lions Mountains by Canadians, but the Squamish know them as the Sisters Mountains. They are monuments made by the Creator to honour twin sisters. They represent peace and friendship and grow the medicines used by Indigenous people.
Salish blankets were made of mountain goat wool. The goats hairs are carefully harvested from the foliage where the goats live. The intense amount of labour involved in creating a beautiful blanket makes them a very prized gift. When a blanket is wrapped around a person it is a symbol of love, protection and support.
The Longhouse represents a community ceremonial building and housing. Among its uses were for medical treatment and spiritual healing. When people are invited to a home a promise is made to take care of the guests physical, spiritual and emotional needs. The guests are offered protection and comfort. A good host tries their best to take care of the well being of people in their house.
The wordmark considers key words: reconciliation, leader, partnership and cooperative. The vertical use of the full name was developed to illustrate the change of health care perspectives from a conceptual standpoint, while considering the importance of directions in regards to the medicine wheel and the four factors of wellness in indigenous cultures.
The line-break of the acronym, which may appear arbitrary, relates to:
1. How the full name is presented in the two lines of written text
2. The negative space of the H’s create a ‘+’; A symbol of western medicine, of positivity, of compass directions, of unity, and a substitute for ‘and’.
3. How indigenous learning is related to the directions of North, East, West and South.