Exploring Indigenous Social Capital and Health Among Four First Nations: A Strengths-Based Study
Social Capital , Indigenous Health , Strengths-Based Research , Community Health , Canada
The impact of social networks and relationships on health outcomes has been acknowledged and studied within the concept of “social capital” in the field of public health for over two decades. To date, however, few research studies have included Indigenous peoples, and even fewer have focused on the unique strengths that Indigenous social environments bring to health and well-being. In view of these observations, the goal of my thesis is to explore the concept of social capital and its effects on health within Indigenous paradigms of community, health, and wellness. This thesis is framed around a mixed methods study, drawing from a survey that was conducted as part of the Canadian Alliance for Healthy Hearts and Minds study, as well as from interviews with members of Pictou Landing First Nation. Together, the findings of this study suggest that individual Indigenous communities possess unique stocks of social capital that are distinct from one another, as well as fundamentally different from those of non-Indigenous communities. This study also identifies the intimate relation between the construction of social capital and cultural ontologies, histories, and identities, and challenges the use of non-Indigenous (or pan-Indigenous) metrics of social capital in health research. Ultimately, this study calls for stronger consideration of Indigenous social capital as an asset in public health and health promotion involving Indigenous peoples and communities.