Chapter 4: Indigenous Peoples, Communities, and Cultural Safety

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Discover the Indigenous communities that live in the region where you reside
  • Define Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis
  • Define cultural safety and cultural humility
  • Reflect on your culture
  • Promote truth as well as reconciliation and culturally safe work and school environments

Terms to Know

  • Indigenous – Is used around the world to describe people with historical ties to territories prior to invasion or colonization that have been deeply impacted by the dominant society (United Nations, 2004). In Canada, Indigenous is used as a collective term for a variety of different groups, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people.
  • Métis – Refers to Indigenous peoples whose heritage includes First Nations and European settlers, particularly French, who share a distinct cultural identity.
  • Inuit – Refers to Indigenous peoples who inhabit the North and Arctic.
  • First Nations – Used in Canada to describe Indigenous people and groups that are not Inuit and Métis. The majority of Indigenous people in British Columbia belong to First Nations.
  • Cultural safety – “an outcome based on respectful engagement that recognizes and strives to address  power imbalances inherent in the healthcare system. It results in an environment free of racism and discrimination, where people feel safe when receiving health care” (FNHA, 2016, p. 5).
  • Cultural humility – “[i]s a process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust. Cultural humility involves humbly acknowledging oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding another’s experience” (FNHA, 2016, p. 7).
  • Reconciliation – Taking concrete actions to positively change the relationships and experiences that Indigenous people have with Canadians. It is the process of regaining trust, respect and relationship with Indigenous peoples, communities and Nations.

Content Warning: This chapter discusses anti-Indigenous racism, colonialism, and oppression. As a result, it also discusses the horrific impacts of Canadian settler colonialism on Indigenous peoples including genocide, cultural annihilation, language loss, forced displacement, intentional infection, residential schools, incarceration, murder, and abduction. There are also examples of stereotyping and microaggressions against Indigenous peoples described in the case studies.

Case Study: Mikaela (She/Her) learns about the Lheidli T’enneh.

Mikaela just started her work term at Smiles Family Dental in Prince George, BC. She was introduced to the other staff. One of the dental hygienists greeted her by saying “Hadih! Si soozi Imeli ts’utni. My name is Imeli.” Mikaela responded warmly, “Great to meet you! What language was that?” Imeli smiled and said, “The language you just heard is Dakelh, a dialect of Carrier. Me and my brother are learning it to learn about our culture! I’m from the Lheidli T’enneh territory, right here on the unceded land of Prince George.” Mikaela had been living in Prince George for a year, but after meeting Imeli, realized she didn’t actually know very much about the people indigenous to the land she lived, worked, and played on. As her first day continued, she reflected:

  • Where could she learn more about Lheidli T’enneh?
  • What other Indigenous Nations resided in BC?
  • How could she be a good ally to Indigenous people in her work placement?




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Getting Ready for Work-Integrated Learning Copyright © 2022 by Deb Nielsen; Emily Ballantyne; Faatimah Murad; and Melissa Fournier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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