ilhenaylhs chet s7elji – Nourishing Our Ancestors’ Dreams: 2nd International Indigenous DOHaD Gathering

Indigenous communities and community members from Canada and the USA gathered in Vancouver, BC from August 24 to 26, 2022 to share and learn together about supporting Indigenous women, mothers, infants, parents, grandparents, and communities to ensure healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, and healthy futures for all Indigenous peoples.

The gathering, called ilhenaylhs chet s7elji (Nourishing Our Ancestors’ Dreams), brought together Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Holders, community members, parents, midwives and doulas, health and social services practitioners, and academic researchers to share what we are learning and doing to revitalize cultural teachings, practices and traditions, and establish new ways of supporting moms, babies and families in communities.

ilhenaylhs chet s7elji featured:

  • interactive and relational knowledge sharing sessions
  • presentations and teachings from Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Holders, academics, and community leaders
  • cultural supports for Elders, Knowledge Holders and community members
  • opportunities to learn about and experience cultural practices of the Host Nations: xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), səlilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh).

Context: DOHaD = Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. DOHaD is the idea that the first 1,000 – 2,000 days of a person’s life (from conception to two to five years) are crucial for their overall health and wellness for their lifetime and also impact future generations.

The particular environmental contexts and exposures experienced in utero, infancy and early childhood shape a person’s health outcomes. Factors such as maternal stress during pregnancy, childhood nutrition, genetics, and early environmental impacts all shape long-term health outcomes. An Indigenous lens on DOHaD has an enriched consideration of intergenerational effects, including blood memory, intergenerational trauma, and also considers impacts on the wellness of past and future generations through our collectivity and interconnectedness with other people, beings and Mother Earth.

Indigenous DOHaD perspectives also include strengths- and resiliency-based approaches, and the importance of Indigenous cultures, languages and ways of knowing, being and doing as positive impacts supporting of health and wellness, both immediate, throughout our life course, intergenerationally and collectively.

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logo of Indigenous DOHaD Gathering 2022 titled "Nourishing Our Ancestors' Dreams"

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Most of our team lives and works on Treaty 6 territory and the Homeland of the Métis. The original peoples of these lands are the Cree, Saulteaux, Dene, Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, and Métis. Others are based in Vancouver, on the unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. We encourage everyone, wherever they are, to learn about the Indigenous people of the lands on which they live and work. We seek to become engaged allies together. In the spirit of truth and reconciliation, we respect the self-determination of First Nations, Métis and Inuit – in their cultures, languages and their pursuit of wellness.

© 2023 Pewaseskwan (the Indigenous Wellness Research Group) | Office of the Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health and Wellness, University of Saskatchewan.