In Their Words: COVID‑19 experiences of the Vuntut Gwitchin people of Old Crow

Smith, Liris P | $230,800

Yukon Yukon University 2022 CIHR Operating Grant

Yukon University and the northern Village of Old Crow, led by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN), is seeking a research operational grant to explore emerging issues during the COVID‑19 pandemic. VGFN is a self-governing First Nation* who are progressive and innovative in relation to climate change, health and wellness, and economic sovereignty. They have taken numerous proactive approaches during COVID‑19 to protect citizens by instituting controlled access to the community, and using a local risk matrix. Vaccine uptake is high with 86% fully-vaccinated citizens. This grant would support the community and Yukon University to reveal the impacts of COVID‑19 on the citizens of Old Crow. The project will be led by a member of the VGFN government (co-applicant), the Scientific Director of the Yukon SPOR unit (NPI), a VGFN Knowledge Keeper, and a Sex and Gender champion at Yukon University. A community researcher will be hired from, and reside in Old Crow. The fundamentals of OCAP, UNDRIP and TCPS-2 will be at the forefront of the research. Research will be grounded in Indigenous Knowledge and lived experience, using culturally-appropriate, meaningful methodology. Stories and experiences of the First Nation citizens will be heard, privileging the voices of Elders, to explore the successes and challenges that arose these past two years. The community has stories of ancestral responses to previous epidemics/pandemics that remain. Indigenous Knowledge passed through generations has supported the resilience of First Nation people in Canada’s north to thrive through centuries of challenges. Lessons from this community add depth and new learning to our western health systems. Though Old Crow faces challenges to the health and wellness of citizens, the strengths of this community and collective approach to COVID‑19 may support a model for other rural/remote/northern and Indigenous communities in Canada. *11/14 Yukon First Nations are self-governed with signed land claims.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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