Culturally Relevant Urban Wellness

Culturally Relevant Land-Based Practice as a Path to Holistic and Sustainable Urban Wellness

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In collaboration with Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS), the University of British Columbia Institute for Aboriginal Health (IAH), and the Province of British Columbia’s Community Action Initiative (CAI), the Culturally Relevant Land-Based Practice as a Path to Holistic and Sustainable Urban Wellness Project seeks to provide some of Vancouver’s most disadvantaged Aboriginal youth– those who have been removed from their families and placed in the foster care system– with access to culturally relevant land-based practices as a pathway to holistic and sustainable wellness in an urban setting.


Aboriginal Youth Connecting with the Earth and their Communities

Youth from VACFSS are joined by non-Aboriginal youth in IAH’s Medicinal Teaching and Research Garden at the University of British Columbia farm. Together, these youth engage with Aboriginal elders, practicing knowledge keepers, and project personnel to learn about medicinal plants grown at the farm, and how these plants can positively impact holistic health in an urban environment.

The youth work in the garden with project personnel, learn the cultural teachings around each plant from local Aboriginal elders, and participate in activities to promote cultural competence, emotional competence, and positive mental health. Such activities include, but are not be limited to, forest walks (ethnobotanical tours), sprouting seeds in the greenhouse, planting seedling, harvesting edible and non-edible plants with an emphasis on food as medicine, canning, smoking salmon, participating in medicine-making workshops, engaging in emotional and cultural competence workshops, being a part of wellness circles, and taking part in a rites of passage ceremony.

Positive Impact of Engaging in Culturally Relevant, Land-Based Practices

This applied research addresses the feelings of shame, alienation, and intergenerational trauma present in a high percentage of Aboriginal youth through engagement in culturally relevant land-based practices promoting holistic wellness in the urban setting of Vancouver, British Columbia.

In alignment with the mission and vision of AC4, this research examines linkages between society, culture, environment and practice to promote peace-building and holistic wellness, while also promoting knowledge and respect of Aboriginal sovereignty, food security, and sustainable urban practices.





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