Impacts of COVID‑19 on Virtual Elder-led Supports for Survivors of Violence: Participatory Approaches to Response, Evaluation, and Recovery
Little has been documented about the impacts, adaptation, resiliency, leadership, and effectiveness of Indigenous-led virtual support programs that have arisen during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Immediate research is needed to evaluate the impacts COVID‑19 has had on the development and delivery of virtual Elder-led supports for Elders, Grandmothers, knowledge keepers, and Indigenous survivors of violence, particularly as COVID‑19 countermeasures have exacerbated pre-existing health and social inequities, deepened social isolation, and restricted Indigenous ceremonies (UN, 2020). Our community-based, Indigenous-led research team proposes the upscaling, delivery, and evaluation of the “Virtual Resilience & Wellness Journey Program Pathway” at the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)’s Resiliency Lodge, an Elder-led program that provides distinctions-based, land-based, culturally-safe, trauma-informed support online for Indigenous women, two-spirit, and gender-diverse people healing from trauma and violence. We propose the use of participatory action methodologies with Elders, Grandmothers, Knowledge Holders, Resiliency Lodge staff, and other Indigenous-led virtual support programs in Canada to address the research questions: What are the impacts of COVID‑19 on the development and delivery of Elder-led support services? How are these Elder-led support services adapting to the impacts of COVID-19? How can we engage Elders and other Knowledge keepers in the development of culturally and contextually relevant evaluation framework to evaluate best practices for virtual Indigenous-led support? Our research approach ensures research findings address critical gaps in knowledge of culturally safe COVID‑19 prevention, preparedness, response and recovery strategies, accelerates community-led knowledge, and strengthens Elder-led program infrastructure for communities on the frontlines of culturally safe violence prevention and intervention.