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Collaborative Working Group "Traditional Ways and Science" Visits Mistissini

February 28, 2017

On January 17 and 18, the Cree Nation of Mistissini had the pleasure to welcome a team of researchers from four universities. Elders, healers, community members and organizations worked together under the project name "Traditional Ways and Science".

It was the beloved Mistissini Elder Jane Blacksmith who was initially in charge of organizing this major gathering but she suddenly passed away in December 2016. The community of Mistissini decided to go ahead with the plan to honour Jane and her continuous work to improve the health of the Eeyou-Eenou people. She was fondly remembered by all during the two days. A minute of silence was held in her name on January 17.

It is important to note that this collaborative working group is building scientific evidence about anti-diabetic medicinal plants and how country food, or traditional food can help prevent and manage Type 2 Diabetes. We know that aboriginal people living on First Nation territories across Canada have a rate of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) that is four times higher than the Canadian average, so it is crucial to tackle this major health issue and find solutions together.

Four First Nations are currently part of this specific participatory, community-based research project : The Innu Nation of Mashteuiatsh, the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, the Cree Nation of Mistissini, and the Squamish Nation of Squamish Valley. Currently, "Traditional Ways and Science " has four objectives:

-Hold priority-setting events to find out community needs and current work related to diabetes prevention and management and the use of traditional medicine and cultural interventions.

- Develop outreach and educational tools to promote the use of traditional medicine and foods to prevent and manage T2D.

-Promote culturally appropriate physical activity programs.

-Establish the safety and efficacy of selected medicinal plants and foods

 The project will now elaborate an intervention program based on traditional medicine, traditional food and culturally relevant physical activity that will be tailored for each participating community. About 30 participants from each community will be recruited to participate in a study to measure if the intervention will have an impact on diabetes prevention and management.