“Cultural Awareness- Working with First Nations Communities: Seek First to Understand” by Sherry Saunderson, RDH

Sherry Saunderson, RDH.

Sherry Saunderson, RDH.

I have had an intrinsic interest in Indigenous cultures most of my life. Perhaps I was influenced by my mother and grandmother’s stories through their contact with members of the Sarcee Reserve (now Tsuu T’ina Nation), which was down the road from my grandparents’ Southwest Calgary home. I also had many unanswered questions about “Indians” since my knowledge of Canadian “history” was learned through the French/English colonial perspective.

Three decades after my dental hygiene graduation I had the opportunity to learn more about Coast Salish peoples when I was offered a contract to work with the Cowichan Tribes. My goal was to develop a community health family based program to tackle high rates (79%) of early childhood caries. I was also fortunate to have the chance to seek out courses to increase my limited knowledge of Indigenous peoples in Canada. I enrolled at Malaspina University College in Women’s Studies 210: Aboriginal Women and Treaties and Women’s Studies 211: Themes in Women’s Studies: First Nations. The classes, taught by two inspiring Indigenous instructors, were exhilarating and informative and fed my desire to learn more.

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