From controlling to connecting: M’Wikwedong as a place of urban Indigenous health promotion in Canada
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In recent years, health promotion has come under critique for being framed according to the contexts and priorities of Western communities, with the notion of ‘control’ underpinning much of its theoretical and practical development. Ceding space to Indigenous voices and knowledge is one way forward to overcoming this limitation and decolonizing the field. This paper reports on insights gained from a participatory digital storytelling project focused on Indigenous health promotion that took place at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre in the city of Owen Sound, Canada. The research team was formed by M’Wikwedong’s Executive Director, five Indigenous youth and two university researchers. We co-created data through an 8-month digital storytelling process that involved 13 weekly research meetings, the creation of 4 digital stories and video screenings. We analysed data from seven group interview transcriptions, field notes and video transcripts through qualitative coding and theme building. The four themes we identified speak to the ways M’Wikwedong reinforced connections to youth, their sense of self, place in the city and Indigenous cultures. From our findings, we theorize that egalitarianism of knowledge, restoring balance in relationships and Indigenous leadership are core components of an ‘ethos of connection’ that underlies Indigenous health promotion. The ‘ethos of connection’ challenges Western notions of ‘control’ and brings attention to the unique expertise and practices of urban Indigenous communities and organizations as a primary basis for health promotion.