May 26th, 2020 – kitatipithitamak mithwayawin: Indigenous-Led Planning and Responses to COVID-19 and other Pandemics, Then, Now, and Into the Future

“COVID-19,” was identified in December 2019 and quickly became a global health crisis. In Canada, provincial and national health agencies have implemented measures aimed at reducing the spread of the disease and mitigating health, social and economic impacts and reach of COVID-19.

Kitatipithitamak mithwayawin,” a Cree phrase for “sovereignty over health and wellbeing,” is an Indigenous-led initiative examining ways that health care systems and services have responded to the needs of First Nations communities during health emergencies and pandemics such as COVID-19. In part, it seeks to understand ways government and other responses have served or worked against First Nations  and how gaps in health care services and supports might affect such responses. Another aspect of our project looks at ways First Nations communities have been affected by previous pandemics. It also contains a component focused on mobilizing knowledge.

The project team represents a range of collaborators including First Nation health service providers and health authorities, policy-makers, advocates, Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics, Elders and grassroots peoples. As the name of our project indicates, First Nations communities have responded rapidly in the face of COVID-19 and a number of them have taken proactive counter-measures toward COVID-19 in terms of social distancing and isolation.

An emergent component of the research focuses on communications. Social media via Facebook are far-reaching especially when using culturally meaningful methods, one of which is Kahkakiw’s Straight Talk— a series of videos featuring Kahkakiw (“raven” in Cree) that have been seen by over 20,000 viewers, mostly in the North. The goal of these videos and other communication initiatives is to provide relevant information in culturally informed and meaningful ways which draw from Indigenous languages, customs and practices. These cultural insights and practices also inform our project as a whole. Through this project, we seek to support and advocate for First Nations as they respond to COVID-19 in the present and to provide “lessons learned” for potential pandemics responses into the future.

For more information about the Kitatipithitamak Mithwayawin project, please visit or the Facebook page at  You can also email

This is a partnership event with Indigenous Research Support Initiative.

Thank you for your interest and participation!

This session’s video is now available for viewing.

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2020 (PST)
Time: 10 a.m. to 11:30 am
Where: Videoconference OR internet webinar.

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About the Presenters:


Dr. Myrle Ballard is Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and fluent Anishinaabe language speaker from Lake St. Martin First Nation. She is an Assistant Professor and Indigenous Scholar in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Ballard received her Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management, M.Sc., and B.A. from the University of Manitoba, and her B.Sc. from the University of Winnipeg.

Her current research focuses on developing frameworks regarding Indigenous and Western Science. She is actively involved in COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) where she is a member of three subcommittees: Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge, Birds, and Freshwater fish. Much of her research has focused on how policy and legislation impacts Traditional lands, livelihoods, and knowledge systems.

She is a videographer and has documented changes to First Nations’ traditional livelihoods due to flooding. She has been invited to participate in expert working groups with different United Nations committees relating to Gender, Climate Change, Traditional Knowledge, Biological Diversity, Ecosystem Services, and Forestry.



Dr. Stéphane McLachlan is a Full Professor and coordinator of the Environmental Conservation Lab at the University of Manitoba. He joined the Department of Environment and Geography in 2003, and has been working at the University of Manitoba since 1999. Before that he completed a PhD at York University and did a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Stéphane’s overall goal as an academic is to engage in research that at once makes contributions to the academic literature and benefits the livelihoods and environments of Aboriginal and rural communities and other stakeholders; to be an engaging, progressive, and responsible teacher; and to be of meaningful service to the university and society as a whole.

Currently his research interests include: risk and adaptation, alternative food systems, food justice, environmental justice, environmental health, participatory video, participatory research, conservation and restoration, and traditional knowledge.



Dr. Ramona Neckoway is an Assistant Professor at University College of the North and currently serves as the Chair of its Aboriginal Northern Studies Program. As a member of a Hydro-affected community in northern Manitoba (Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation), her research has been shaped by the experiences and encounters of her family and her community.

For more than a decade, Ramona has listened to local perspectives as they relate to the many implications of hydropower. Drawing upon these perspectives and experiences, together with reflecting on broader implications of energy production on Cree homelands in northern Manitoba, she endeavors to create critical spaces that include Indigenous voices, histories, and perspectives thus aiming to open up possibilities for alternative narratives where hydropower and energy production in the north is concerned.

Dr. Neckoway is also the co-lead on a NSERC-funded project designed to offer opportunities for Indigenous youth to learn about science in a culturally relevant and meaningful manner. Shaped by both Indigenous customs and practices and Western scientific traditions, this cross-cultural initiative locates science education through land-based camps that are grounded in and draw from culturally rich Indigenous worldviews led by Indigenous Elders and other local knowledge keepers.

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