Indigenous Relationality is the Heartbeat of Indigenous Existence during COVID-19

  • Emma Elliott-Groves University of Washington
  • Dawn Hardison-Stevens University of Washington
  • Jessica Ullrich University of Alaska Anchorage
Keywords: relationality, physical health, mental health, intellectual health, Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Abstract

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, this essay offers Indigenous knowledge systems that highlight strategies for survival. Indigenous peoples understand that human lives are interdependent with and contingent on living in ethical relations with other people, with our ancestors, with plants and animals, and with the natural world overall. Indigenous systems of relationality are the heartbeat of Indigenous existence. They help to illuminate approaches to physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual health. Using the Medicine Wheel framework as an analytical tool, we indicate how Indigenous people can survive and thrive during these times. To create a just democracy and ensure our ecological and sociological future, we must consider the multidimensional needs of all beings. While relational responsibilities are at the heart of many Indigenous worldviews, they extend to all of us. Responsible relations with the natural world sustain human livelihood everywhere, connecting us all in a vast web of life.

References

Artiga, S., & Orgera, K. (2020). COVID-19 Presents Significant Risks for American Indian and Alaska Native People. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/covid-19-presents-significant-risks-for-american-indian-and-alaska-native-people/

Bang, M. (2020). Central Challenge of the 21st Century: Cultivating just, collectively adaptable, sustainable, and culturally thriving communities, Two Feathers - NAFS.

Cajete, G. (1994). Look to the mountain: An ecology of indigenous education: ERIC.

Cajete, G. (2000). Native science : natural laws of interdependence. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Clear Light Publishers.

Child, B. (2020, May 2020). When Art is Medicine. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/28/opinion/coronavirus-ojibwe-dance.html

Elliott‐Groves, E. (2018). Insights from Cowichan: A Hybrid approach to understanding suicide in one First Nations’ collective. Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior, 48(3), 328-339.

Fernandez, A. R., Evans-Campbell, T., Johnson-Jennings, M., Beltran, R. E., Schultz, K., Stroud, S., & Walters, K. L. (2020). “Being on the walk put it somewhere in my body”: The meaning of place in health for Indigenous women. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 1-16. doi:10.1080/15313204.2020.1770652

Hardison-Stevens, D. E. (2014). Knowing the indigenous leadership journey: Indigenous people need the academic system as much as the academic system needs native people.

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants: Milkweed Editions.

Simpson, L. B. (2017). As we have always done: Indigenous freedom through radical resistance: U of Minnesota Press.

Stonechild, B. (2016). The knowledge seeker: Embracing Indigenous spirituality: University of Regina Press.

Styres, S. D. (2017). Pathways for remembering and recognizing Indigenous thought in education: Philosophies of iethi'nihstenha ohwentsia'kekha (land): University of Toronto Press.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1).

Whyte, K. P. (2018). Food Sovereignty, justice and indigenous peoples: an essay on settler colonialism and collective continuance. In A. Barnhill, T. Doggett, & M. Budolfson (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Published
2020-11-03