, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 472–488 | Cite as

Building International Indigenous People’s Partnerships for Community-Driven Health Initiatives

  • Tanya R. WahbeEmail author
  • Eduardo M. Jovel
  • David R. Silva García
  • Vicente E. Pilco Llagcha
  • N. Rose Point


In this article we present an international Indigenous people’s partnership project co-led by two Indigenous communities, Musqueam (Coast Salish, Canada) and Totoras (Quichua, Ecuador), as a community-driven health initiative. The Musqueam-Totoras partnership includes Indigenous organizations, universities, international agencies, government, and nongovernmental organizations to address Indigenous health concerns in both communities. Our collaborative approach provides a framework to (a) increase the development expertise of Indigenous people internationally, (b) increase skills among all participants, and (c) facilitate Indigenous knowledge mobilization and translation to promote cultural continuity. This international Indigenous people’s partnership between north and south reflects the diversity and commonalities of Indigenous knowledge, contributes to cultural revitalization, and minimizes the impact of assimilation, technology, and globalization. Indigenous people’s partnerships contribute to self-determination, which is a prerequisite to the building and maintenance of healthy communities and the promotion of social justice. The exchange of Indigenous knowledge upholds Indigenous values of respect, reciprocity, relevance, and responsibility. Given the history of colonization and the negligence of governments in the exercising of these values with respect to Indigenous communities, this contemporary exchange among Indigenous people in the Americas serves to reclaim these values and practices. International cooperation empowering Indigenous people and other marginalized groups has become fundamental for their advancement and participation in globalized economies. An international Indigenous people’s partnership provides opportunities for sharing cultural, historical, social, environmental, and economic factors impacting Indigenous health. These partnerships also create beneficial learning experiences in community-based participatory research and community-driven health initiatives, provide culturally sensitive research ethics frameworks, increase capacity building, and address basic human needs identified by participating communities.


community-driven health initiative international Indigenous people’s partnership community-based participatory research Indigenous research ethics Indigenous knowledge knowledge transfer capacity-building 



We thank community members of Musqueam First Nation (Canada) and Comuna Santa Rosa de Totoras (Ecuador) for their leadership and dedication. Special thanks to the Musqueam and Totoras youth participants: Courtenay Gibson, Rebecca Campbell, Joni Sparrow, Vanessa Campbell, April Campbell, Matthew Mathison, Ana Shagñay, Elena Lema, and many others whose leadership and enthusiasm made this project a success. Project activities could not have been implemented without the commitment of our coleaders: in Ecuador: Dr. Joscelito Solano, Alicia Chela, and Carlos Llagcha, and in Canada: Coreen Mathison, Jerilyn Sparrow, Erma Campbell, Lindsay Gibson, Woody Sparrow, and Joanna Clark. We thank Quelemia Sparrow for video documentation and Heather Commodore for English lessons while in Ecuador. Numerous partners contributed to the implementation of this project and helped to strengthen our team. We are grateful for the training and support provided by Universidad Estatal de Bolívar, Ayuda de Bolívar para los Campos, UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Musqueam Ecological Conservation Society, Departamento de Salud Indígena, and many others. Sharing of traditional knowledge by the Yachaks Indigenous Healers Council and the support of local Indigenous organizations further enriched the project. We are also grateful to Vivian Campbell and Doris Fox (Musqueam First Nation), Elder Dorris Peters (Sto:lo Nation), and Dr. Richard Vedan (Secwepemc First Nation) for sharing their cultural knowledge. For funding support we thank the Canadian International Development Agency’s Indigenous People’s Partnership Program (CIDA-IPPP), UBC Institute for Aboriginal Health, BC ACADRE, and Universidad Estatal de Bolívar. We appreciate the helpful support and guidance provided by the Canadian Ambassador in Ecuador, Christian Lapoint. Comments on earlier drafts provided by Dr. Jean Barman, Veronica Robertson, Kerrie Charnley, and anonymous reviewers helped to strengthen this article.


  1. Adelson N (2004) Aboriginal Canada – Synthesis. Paper for the International Think Tank on Reducing Health Disparities and Promoting Equity in Vulnerable Populations, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 21–23, 2003. Sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Available at [accessed September 13, 2007]
  2. Altman J, Cochrane M (2005) Sustainable development in the indigenous-owned savanna: innovative institutional design for cooperative wildlife management. Wildlife Research 32:473–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Appavoo DM, Kubow S, Kuhnlein HV (1991) Lipid composition of indigenous foods eaten by the Sahtu (Hareskin) Dene-Metis of the Northwest Territories. Journal of Food and Comparative Analysis 4:107–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Archibald J-A, Jovel EM, Vedan R, McCormick R (2006) Creating Transformative Aboriginal Health Research: The BC ACADRE at Three Years. Canadian Journal of Aboriginal Education 39(1):4–11Google Scholar
  5. Arnett J (1973) Rare artifacts uncovered near campus. UBC Reports 19:1Google Scholar
  6. Barnes HM (2000) Collaboration in community action: a successful partnership between indigenous communities and researchers. Health Promotion International 15:17–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. BC CSCDRR (British Columbia Coroner’s Service Child Death Review Report) (2005) Child Death Review Unit, British Columbia Coroner Service. Vancouver: Ministry of Public and Solicitor GeneralGoogle Scholar
  8. BC Provincial Health Officer (2002) Report on the health of British Columbians. Provincial health officer’s annual report 2001. The Health and Well-being of Aboriginal People in British Columbia. Victoria: Ministry of Health PlanningGoogle Scholar
  9. Belinsky DL, Kuhnlein HV, Yeboah F, Penn AF, Chan HM (1996) Composition of fish consumed by the James Bay Cree. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 9:148–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berka CD, McCallum B, Wernick H (2004) Land use impacts on water quality: case studies in three watersheds. EcoResearch 3:1–8Google Scholar
  11. Brant Castellano M (2004) Ethics of Aboriginal Research. Journal of Aboriginal Health 1(1):98–114. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]
  12. Campbell C, Jovchelovitch S (2000) Health, community and development: towards a social psychology of participation. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology 10:255–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2004) Knowledge Translation Strategy 2004–2009. Innovation in Action. Ottawa, Canada. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]
  14. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2007) CIHR Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal People (2007). Canadian Institute for Health Research. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]. ISBN: 978-0-662-45898-2
  15. CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) (2004) The World Fact Book. Available at [accessed October 2004]
  16. Chino M, DeBruyn L (2006) Building true capacity: Indigenous models for Indigenous communities. American Journal of Public Health 96:596–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Committee on Indigenous Health (1999) The Geneva Declaration on the Health and Survival of Indigenous Peoples, Geneva: WHO (WHO/HSD/00.1)Google Scholar
  18. Dakubo C (2004) Ecosystem approach to community health planning in Ghana. EcoHealth 1:50–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dickson G (1995) Participatory Action Research: Theory and practice. In: Stewart MJ (ed) Community Nursing: Promoting Canadians’ Health. Toronto, ON: Saunders Canada, Chap 30, pp 640–661Google Scholar
  20. Durie M (2003) Launching Maori futures, Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers, p 167Google Scholar
  21. Durie M (2004) Understanding health and illness: research and the interface between science and indigenous knowledge. International Journal of Epidemiology 33:1138–1143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Durie M (2005) Te Tai Tini. Transformation 2025. Keynote Speech. Academy for Maori Research and Scholarship, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand, March 2005Google Scholar
  23. Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning (2001) University-Community Research Partnerships Initiative. Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Available at∼mserve/umich_community_programs/index.html [accessed September 14, 2007]
  24. El Ansari W, Phillips CJ, Zwi AB (2002) Narrowing the gap between academic professional wisdom and community lay knowledge: perceptions from partnerships. Public Health 116:151–159Google Scholar
  25. FAO (1996) World Food Summit, Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  26. Foliaki S, Pearce N (2003) Changing pattern of ill health for indigenous people. British Medical Journal 327:406–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fournier R (2001) La Magia de las Plantas Medicinales. Jambi Kiwa. Asociación de Productores de Plantas Medicinales de Chimborazo. Riobamba, EcuadorGoogle Scholar
  28. Gorjestani N (2000) Indigenous knowledge for development. Proceedings of UNCTAD Conference on Traditional Knowledge. Geneva, Switzerland, November 1, 2000Google Scholar
  29. Green LW, George MA, Daniel M, Frankish CJ, Herbert CJ, Bowie WR (1995) Study of Participatory Research in Health Promotion, Royal Society of Canada, University of British Columbia, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  30. Guzman RJ, Jurado HM, Kron MA (1995) Infectious disease in Ecuador. Journal of Travel Medicine 2:89–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hern WM (1991) Health and demography of native Amazonians: Historical perspectives and current status. Cadernos de Saude Publica 7:451–480Google Scholar
  32. Hinrichsen D (2006) Working from within and from without – Jambi Huasi – a model for community empowerment. New York: UNFPAGoogle Scholar
  33. House of Representatives (2004) Many Ways Forward. Standing Committee on Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Affairs. Canberra: House of RepresentativesGoogle Scholar
  34. IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs) (2006) The Indigenous World, Copenhagen: IWGIAGoogle Scholar
  35. International Labour Organization (1989) Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. Convention 169. Geneva, Switzerland. Adopted June 1989Google Scholar
  36. Kahnawá:ke Schools (2007) Code of Research Ethics Revised 2007, Kahnawá:ke Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (KSDPP), Kahnawá:ke, Quebec, Canada. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]
  37. Kepa M (2006) Indigenous Maori and Tongan perspectives on the role of Tongan language and culture in the community and the university in Aotearoa-New Zealand. American Indian Quarterly 30(1–2):11–27Google Scholar
  38. Kirkness VJ, Barnhardt R (1991) First Nations and higher education: The four r’s - respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility. Journal of American Indian Education 3:1–15Google Scholar
  39. Kuhnlein HV (1989) Nutritional and toxicological components of Inuit diets in Broughton Island, Northwest Territories. Contract report to Department of Health, Yellowknife, NWT. McGill University, Montreal, QuebecGoogle Scholar
  40. Kuhnlein HV, Receveur O, Soueida R, Egeland GM (2004) Arctic indigenous peoples experience the nutrition transition with changing dietary patterns and obesity. Journal of Nutrition 134:1447–1453Google Scholar
  41. Lomas J (1997) Improving research and uptake in the health sector: Beyond the sound of one hand clapping. McMaster Centre for Health Economics and Analysis. Policy Commentary, C97-1, November 1997Google Scholar
  42. Lombeyda G (1998) De la Tierra del Pumin: Vivencias y Testimonios, Quito: Escuela de Educacion y Cultura AndinaGoogle Scholar
  43. Macaulay AC, Nutting PA (2006) Moving the frontiers forward: incorporating community-based participatory research into practice-based research networks. Annals of Family Medicine 4:4–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Malezer L (2007) Statement to the United Nations by Chairman of Global Indigenous Caucus, delivered 13 September 2007Google Scholar
  45. Martin K (2001) Ways of knowing, ways of being, and ways of doing: developing a theoretical framework and methods for Indigenous re-search and Indigenist research. Symposium B, Session 1, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  46. Mauro F, Hardison PD (2000) Traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities: international debate and policy initiatives. Ecological Applications 10:1263–1269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ministry of Health Services (2004) Number of people with specific chronic disease by age group, Vancouver: Ministry of Health ServicesGoogle Scholar
  48. Ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1995) The Government of Canada’s Approach to Implementation of the Inherent Right and the Negotiation of Aboriginal Self-government. Federal Policy Guide. Aboriginal Self-Government. Available at [accessed October 20 2007]
  49. Newton LA (1995) Life and Death in Early Colonial Ecuador, Norman: University Press of Oklahoma PressGoogle Scholar
  50. Nuffic, The Hague, The Netherlands, and UNESCO/MOST, Paris, France (2002) Best Practices Using Indigenous Knowledge. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]. ISBN: 90-5464-032–4
  51. Pan American Health Organization (1997) Fortalecimiento y Desarrollo de los Sistemas de Salud Tradicionales: Organización y Provisión de Servicios de Salud en Poblaciones Multiculturales, Washington DC: OPS, Serie Salud de los Pueblos Indígenas No. 6Google Scholar
  52. Pineros-Petersen M, Ruiz-Salguero M (1998) Demographic aspects in indigenous communities of 3 regions of Columbia. Salud Publica Mexicana 40:324–329Google Scholar
  53. Sandrick KM (1997) The wisdom of the old ways. Hospitals and Health Networks 71:42Google Scholar
  54. Schnarch B (2004) Ownership, Control, Access, Possession (OCAP) or self-determination applied to research: a critical analysis of contemporary First Nations research and some options for First Nations communities. Journal of Aboriginal Health 1:80-95. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]
  55. Smith L (1998) Decolonizing Methodologies, Otago: Zen BooksGoogle Scholar
  56. Sparrow v. The Queen (1990) Supreme Court of Canada. 1 S.C.R. 1075Google Scholar
  57. Sri Lanka Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (1996) Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Development. University of Sri Jayewardenapura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka, pp vii–viiiGoogle Scholar
  58. Statistics Canada (2005) The Daily, June 28 2005. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]
  59. Statistics Canada (2006) Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]
  60. Townsend CR, Tipa G, Teirney LD, Niyogi DK (2004) Development of a tool to facilitate participation of Maori in the management of stream and river health. EcoHealth 1:184–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Turner NJ (2003) The ethnobotany of edible seaweed (Porphyra abbottae and related species; Rhodophyta: Bangiales) and its use by First Nations on the Pacific Coast of Canada. Canadian Journal of Botany 81:283–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. UNESCO (2006) UNESCO and Indigenous People: Partnerships to Promote Cultural Diversity, Paris: UNESCO PublishingGoogle Scholar
  63. United Nations (2004) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Resolution 2006/2. Geneva, Switzerland. Available at [accessed September 14, 2007]
  64. United Nations (2005) Guidelines for engagement with indigenous peoples. In: Engaging the marginalized: Partnerships between indigenous peoples, governments and civil society. Proceedings of United Nations Workshop, International Conference on Engaging Communities, Brisbane, Australia, 14–17 AugustGoogle Scholar
  65. World Health Organization (WHO) (2004) Countries information. Available at [accessed on October 20, 2007]
  66. Young J, Hawley A (2002) Plants and medicines of Sophie Thomas: Based on the traditional knowledge of Sophie Thomas, Sai’kuz Elder and Healer, Prince George: Mosquito BooksGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Ecohealth Journal Consortium 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanya R. Wahbe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Eduardo M. Jovel
    • 1
    • 2
  • David R. Silva García
    • 3
  • Vicente E. Pilco Llagcha
    • 4
  • N. Rose Point
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute for Aboriginal Health and BC ACADRE, College of Health DisciplinesUniversity of British ColumbiaBritish ColumbiaCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Aboriginal Health and Natural Products Chemistry LaboratoryUniversity of British ColumbiaBritish ColumbiaCanada
  3. 3.Departamento de InvestigaciónUniversidad Estatal de BolívarProvincia de BolívarEcuador
  4. 4.Totoras Community MemberComuna Santa Rosa de TotorasProvincia de BolívarEcuador
  5. 5.Musqueam Community MemberMusqueam First NationBritish ColumbiaCanada
  6. 6.Aboriginal Elder AdvisorBritish Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT)British ColumbiaCanada

Personalised recommendations