Shxw’éyelh – Stories of Health and Healing
“The health status of Aboriginal people in Canada today is both a tragedy and a crisis,” concluded the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996.
Sadly, those words still ring true.
Illness of almost every kind continues to occur more often among Aboriginal people than among other Canadians.
Decades of effort by local, provincial and national health caregivers have helped “close the gap,” but have fallen far short of achieving equal health outcomes for all Canadians.
Despite large amounts of money spent on illness care, Aboriginal people experience ill health at unacceptable levels, in areas such as infant health, infectious disease (i.e. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis), chronic disease (i.e. diabetes, heart disease), disabilities, substance abuse and community health (i.e. poverty, physical living conditions, environmental hazards).
However, Aboriginal people themselves are more and more involved in finding solutions to the health and social problems facing their communities, and they consistently state that curing diseases of the body alone cannot restore well-being. Aboriginal people are striving to bring balance to body, mind, emotions and spirit. In short, they are looking for whole health.
As we explored the health issues facing Aboriginal communities in BC’s Lower Mainland, we learned of the Halkomelem word “shxw’éyelh.” In English, it means “to be healthy,” but a literal translation is “good breath from an inside place.”
In the spirit of “shxw’éyelh,” we share these stories of health and healing.