The Second Annual Conference on Gross National Happiness The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness
Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
June 20 to June 24, 2005
  Heather Schmidt
Understanding the Strengths of Indigenous Communities:
A Holistic Study of Community Health in First Nations

Over the past four years, six First Nation communities from across Canada (Batchewana, ON; Flying Dust, SK; Mikisew, AB; Saanich, BC; Teslin Tlingit, YT; and Wagmatcook, NS), have participated in a research project entitled "Understanding the Strengths of Indigenous Communities" (USIC). This research project has been unique in a number of ways:
  • It focuses on the strengths of the communities rather than on the problems.
  • It is community-driven Š the researchers have been drawn from the communities, trained in various research methods, and then used their skills to elicit community perceptions of their First NationsÕ own strengths.
  • It examines holistic definitions of community well-being and strength (as defined by the First Nations, themselves), including topics such culture and language, good governance, social cohesion, and so on, in addition to economic indicators.
  • It is a true collaboration between academics and community members.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the research is its focus on process: i.e., exploring how the strengths of relatively strong First Nations have been developed and maintained over time. The research explores the process of the strengthsÕ development, how they were used to assist the community in surviving and persevering, and how the community utilized its strengths to build and develop itself further. The end goal of the research is to provide models of development that may be adapted by other First Nations communities for their use. Members from the Nova Scotia MiÕkmaq community of Wagmatcook (and a supporting academic) will present an overview of the USIC project, as well as some of their own research results in our poster.

Heather Schmidt, MA
072E Behavioural Sciences Building
Psychology Department
York University
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON
Canada M3J 1P3

Vickie Price
P.O. Box 30028
Wagmatcook, NS
Canada B0E 3N0
902-295-2999 ext. 242

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