National Indigenous History Month

One in seven Manitobans identify as Indigenous, making up 17 per cent of the total population in the province. The Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM) is proud to partner with First Nations, Inuit and Métis families, and partner organizations to improve child health outcomes in all areas. CHRIM has multiple researchers and research themes with a strong focus on Indigenous populations; covering everything from keeping kids’ teeth healthy to ensuring that their research is culturally safe, our researchers strive to create health equity.

Dr. Bob Schroth has been working on research to ensure that children in remote Indigenous communities are having their teeth properly cared for. The oral health of Indigenous children is a major child health disparity when compared to the general population. Early childhood caries happen to Indigenous children earlier, more severely and with a high prevalence. Dr. Schroth leads theHealthy Smile, Happy Child initiative that aims to educate families on how to best care for the teeth of little ones and the best practices to avoid early childhood caries.

It’s exciting that we’ve been able to build upon our successes with the Healthy Smile Happy Child initiative and our partnerships to implement effective community-based oral health interventions for Indigenous children. Our research team and community partners see the integration of traditional oral health teaching into our health promotion strategies and working with non-dental primary care providers to identify kids at risk for tooth decay as promising ways to address early childhood oral health disparities among young First Nations and Metis children in Manitoba.

Dr. Bob Schroth

CHRIM’s newest research theme, ENRRICH, has consciously chosen to ensure that their research is culturally appropriate and relevant. ENRRICH relies on the guidance and expertise of Elder Mary, who is a spiritual healer, wisdom and knowledge keeper.

“We value Elder Mary’s leadership within ENRRICH. Her teachings help guide theme members to ask relevant research questions, conduct research, and share knowledge in culturally sensitive ways. Her involvement is helping us to grow as individuals and as a team.”

– Dr. Kristy Wittmeier, ENRRICH Co-lead

In 2021, ENRRICH was bestowed the honor of an Indigenous name by Elder Mary. They were given the name Cowikanāpisīs (Cree), or “Dragonfly.” You can read more about their Cree name here.

The DREAM theme at CHRIM continues to work towards correcting health inequities by working closely with partners such as Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM) Inc. to support community-based wellness programming for Indigenous youth in Manitoba. In partnership with Dr. Barry Lavallee, CEO of KIM, DREAM works collaboratively to facilitate awards to communities within Manitoba to promote wellness. In 2021, DREAM members continued to work towards reconciliation by participating in an annual retreat that focused on anti-racism initiatives.

The Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program is an after-school program delivered by older adolescents from local high schools and provides physical activity, healthy snacks, games, and educational and leadership activities for children. The program is funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and begun with DREAM theme’s co-lead, Dr. Jon McGavock. The IYMP program is now offered in several different locations throughout Manitoba and Canada.

June is National Indigenous History Month, a time to reflect and recognize the rich history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples across Canada.

As we aim to be better in all aspects of equity, diversity and inclusion, CHRIM will continue working towards reconciliation with the Indigenous community. By learning and listening to Indigenous partners, researchers, and Elders, we strive to achieve health equity for all children and their families.