Circling Together for Wellness: A Virtual Gathering Upholding Indigenous Knowledge

Equity + Justice, 2022, Indigenous Voices, Health

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) hosted a virtual gathering to celebrate Indigenous storytelling and explore ways of sharing Indigenous knowledge that are determined by Indigenous people and grounded in traditional, local and cultural protocols.

We were joined by the FNHA to: 

  • Learn about methods and practices from teams who are co-developing community-based knowledge exchange tools
  • Hear about developments in Indigenous standards and processes for research and data governance
  • Explore how Indigenous oral and visual knowledge exchange methods can enhance community well-being

Through a mix of plenary talks, cultural teachings and concurrent breakout presentations, Circling Together for Wellness explored research and lessons from the FNHA’s two-part guest edition of the International Journal of Indigenous Health (Issue 1, Issue 2). Stories and tools shared at the virtual gathering enabled learning and also supported the appropriate and meaningful exchange of Indigenous knowledge for upholding the well-being of Indigenous communities.

The plenary featured Namaste Marsden from the Wilp Gamlaxyeltxw, Lax Ganeda (Frog Clan), who spoke about topics spanning Indigenous knowledge and data governance with important takeaways for academia and publishing. Concurrent breakout sessions featured researchers, health professionals and community members shared innovations for promoting cultural safety and humility, community-driven research, trauma-informed care approaches, and more. This special gathering was moderated by Courtney Defriend, director of research and knowledge exchange at the FNHA.


  • Welcome by Courtney Defriend
  • Opening by Elder Don Beacham
  • Plenary address by Namaste Marsden with graphic illustration by Tiaré Lani
  • Waakebiness-​Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health with introduction by Clay Shirt
  • Concurrent breakout sessions
  • Graphic recording harvest: discussion by Tiaré Lani
Thu, 23 Jun 2022

Online event


About the speakers

Namaste Marsden

Namaste Marsden, Masemtxoxw, BA, LLB, is from the Wilp Gamlaxyeltxw, Lax Ganeda (Frog Clan). Namaste is a mother to two sons and is from a close-knit family from Gitanyow and Gitsegukla on her late father’s side. Namaste has over 16 years of professional experience with Indigenous programs and organizations in health, policy and research at the local, provincial and national levels. Areas of interest and research include hereditary and modern governance, spectrum of OCAP® application in First Nations research and ethics, and Indigenous knowledge and modern applications. Namaste’s interests extend to areas of health including harm reduction, tobacco use, trauma-informed care for Elders, and HIV/AIDS. She served as Executive Director, Aboriginal Health Research Networks Secretariat, and as the first-ever Managing Editor of the International Journal of Indigenous Health (formerly JAH). Namaste is currently Director, Indigenous Engagement, Faculty of Medicine, Health Engagement at the University of British Columbia and holds an Adjunct Faculty position with Simon Fraser University in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Dr. Ted Mala

Dr. Mala is the former Southcentral Foundation (SCF) Director of Traditional Healing and Tribal Relations at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Originally from Buckland in northwest Alaska, Dr. Mala was the first Alaska Native doctor to return to the state to serve Alaska Native people. He was also the first Alaska Native to serve as the state's commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services. Drawing on his Inupiat Eskimo background, Dr. Mala served as a bridge between Western medicine physicians and tribal practitioners. Dr. Mala is retired from medicine after practicing for more than 40 years.

Moderator | Courtney Defriend    

Courtney (Ti'yuqtunat) is of Coast Salish and European descent. She is a member of the Stz'uminus (Chemainus) First Nation on Vancouver Island. Courtney and her family live on Snuneymuxw territory, where she enjoys being outside and spending time with her family. Courtney's passion for the well-being of people and communities led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care and a Master of Arts in Leadership Studies as well as a certificate in family mediation. Now, she promotes and supports mental wellness with the FNHA as the Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange. Courtney has had experience with team-based action research, quantitative data collection with high-risk populations and, more recently, has been studying Indigenous research methodologies. Courtney is a doctoral candidate at Royal Roads University, focusing her research on urban and away-from-home health services on Vancouver Island.

Graphic recorder | Tiaré Lani (they/them) 

I am a multi-racial, Mahu person of Hawaiian, Tahitian, Lheidli T'enneh, Chinese, and Irish Ancestry. I was born on Lheidli T'enneh territory (Prince George, BC) and raised with Hawaiian values. I moved to Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish Territories (Vancouver) to study illustration and stayed for the love of QTBIPOC community and the land. I listen and draw collective wisdom. Uplifting community voices with an intersectional approach brings me joy. I love creating visual tools for groups to imagine and work towards lateral liberation and collective well-being. Since 2016, I have collaborated with Indigenous communities & Nations, BIPOC led organizations, youth led organizations, disability justice groups, foundations, post-secondary institutions, government, non-profit, and businesses to create meaningful connections and change.

Website | Instagram



9:00 – 9:30: Opening & Introductions

By Elder Don Beacham & Courtney Defriend

9:30 – 10:45: Plenary Address 

Academic publishing – theft or protection? Seeking sovereignty over Indigenous knowledge with lessons from Indigenous-led publishing 

By Namaste Marsden, Masemtxoxw, BA, LLB, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University & Director, Indigenous Engagement, University of British Columbia

10:45 – 11:00: Break

11:00 – 11:30: Introduction to the FNHA Guest Edition of the IJIH

By Dr. Ted Mala

11:30 – 12:15: Breakout session 1

Breakout session 1A:
Engaging with visual storytelling in research: Learnings from the ‘(Re)connecting to Coming of Age for Urban Indigenous Youth Living in-Care’ projects 
Team members: Andrea Mellor, Denise Cloutier and Jennifer Chuckry

Breakout session 1B:
Collaboration with Inuit to help stop or reduce the harms from tobacco: Adaptation and implementation of the IT’S TIME toolkit 
Team members: Megan Barker, Peter Selby and Eric Ipirq

Breakout session 1C:
Indigenous End of Life Doula Course: Bringing the culture home
Team members: Nicole Wikjord, Jennifer Mallmes, and Lisa J. Wilson

12:15 – 1:00: Breakout session 2

Breakout session 2A:
Sharing Anishinaabe Knowledge of the Land to Support Healing from Trauma
Team Members: Randy Trudeau and Marion Maar

Breakout session 2B:
Reflexive Reflection - a Data Contemplation Tool for Shared Knowledge Creation through Indigenous Research Methodologies
Team members: Carrie LaVallie, JoLee Sasakamoose and Jayda Delorme

Breakout session 2C:
It’s a Journey, not a Check Box: Indigenous Cultural Safety from Training to Transformation
Team members: Lloy Wylie, Stephanie McConkey, Joyla Furlano, Hannah Healey and Alana Kehoe

1:00 – 1:45: Breakout session 3

Breakout session 3A:
Braiding Knowledge & (Re)connecting through women’s teachings, language, and movement: culturally-rooted yoga for First Nations women
Team member: Jessica Barudin

Breakout session 3B:
Adaptations to the Serious Illness Conversation Guide to Be More Culturally Safe
Team members: Elizabeth Beddard-Huber, Nicole Wikjord and Connie Paul

1:45 – 2:30: Graphic recording harvesting

By Tiaré Lani

2:30 – 3:00: Closing

By Knowledge Keeper Clay Shirt

Resources for participants

Below is a list of counselling, cultural, and mental health resources that can be accessed over the phone, online and in-person (see available services for modifications due to COVID-19).

Mental health and substance use counselling services

  • KUU-US-Indigenous Crisis Phone Line: Crisis line to provide support to Indigenous people in B.C. Call 1-800-588-8717 (toll-free) or 250-723-2040 (youth line) or 250-723-4050 (adult line), for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line and Online Counselling Service: Immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous people across Canada. Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or visit to connect with an online counsellor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • First Nations Health Authority Virtual Doctor of the Day: Virtual meeting with a doctor for all First Nations people in B.C. (and their family members, even if non-status). Call 1-855-344-3800 (toll-free) to make an appointment for a Zoom video chat with a doctor, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: Emotional and crisis referral for former residential school students. Call 1-866-925-4419 (toll-free) for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Tsow-Tun-Le-Lum: Guidance from an Elder for First Nations people in B.C. Call 1-250-268-2463 or 1-888-590-3123 (toll-free).
  • Indian Residential School Survivors Society: Counselling, court support, information and referrals for residential school survivors in B.C. Call 604-985-4465 or 1-800-721-0066 (toll-free).
  • Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia: Culturally appropriate justice and health-related services for all self-identifying Indigenous people in B.C. Call 1-877-811-1190 (toll-free) or e-mail between 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • BC Help Line: Multilingual referral service including mental health and addictions support. Call or text 211, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or connect with an information and referral specialist online at between 8:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • Addressing Racism: An independent investigation into Indigenous-specific discrimination in B.C. health care: Can report instances of and experiences of racism in the health care system. Call 1-888-600-3078 (toll-free) or email, or visit
  • BC Patient Safety & Quality Council: A way to share patient experiences for everyone from health care providers to patients. Visit

Treatment and healing centres

  • Carrier Sekani Family Services: Mental wellness counselling and addictions program, tele-health and primary health services for First Nations people in B.C. Call 250-567-2900 or 1-800-889-6855 (toll-free).
  • Telmexw Awtexw (Sts’ailes First Nation, Agassiz, B.C.): Programs that help residential school survivors and intergenerationally affected Indigenous people in B.C. come to terms with and help them understand how to deal with their trauma. Call 604-796-9829 or email for support.

Event partners

Community guidelines

Our community guidelines are intended to ensure the safety of all guest speakers and event participants, and to foster honest, socially accountable dialogue at our events. Thank you for respecting these guidelines!

  • Above all, there will be zero tolerance for those who promote violence or discrimination against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, or disability. Anyone who incites harm towards other participants (whether through chat, video, audio or otherwise) will be removed at the discretion of our technical team and moderator.
  • Don’t assume pronouns/gender/knowledge based on someone’s name or appearance. Please refer to people using the usernames and/or pronouns they provide.
  • Take space, make space: share your perspective, and make space for other voices to be heard too. Recognize that we are all here to learn.