By Elijah Buffalo
National Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated annually and marks the summer solstice on June 21st. This is an important day to many Indigenous cultures as it is a time to reflect on our place in the universe, to observe and record the relationships we have with community and environment/land, and to participate in ceremony to mark this important time of the year. As this may be a day for settlers and Indigenous peoples to reflect upon the history of colonialism and to focus on reconciliation, as well as to honour and learn more about Indigenous languages and cultures, this is also a day of science, both Indigenous and western.
As health and medicine has always been an interconnected facet of culture, the ongoing health of our Nations and cultures was often tied to events like this. Fasting is often a key component to observing the solstice and is done for spiritual and physical health and is used to further pursue knowledge of the land, culture, and community and to honour and maintain the relationships that exist in these areas.
These are some of the things I think about as we approach NIPD as I am participating in BioCanRx’s Indigenous Summer Studentship at the Deeley Research Centre, BC Cancer. I am completing a project on colonialism and cancer, focusing on strength-based strategies to interpret data and to present any potential findings, and I am very honoured to be doing this work. Though it is short-term, I am filled with enthusiasm and hope for the potential to build towards more in-depth research and to add more Indigenous voices to cancer research. In learning of ongoing studies that include things like fasting I am excited about therapies that overlap western and Indigenous science and culture, and I am hopeful that other areas of Indigenous culture can be utilized in culturally safe ways to improve many of the health crises that are ongoing in Indigenous communities.