Drawing Wisdom Listening to stories: a conversation about culturally safe connection With Jada-Gabrielle Pape, Saanich & Snuneymuxw Nations, and Kat Dodds Jada-Gabrielle Pape and Kat Dodds have worked together in health and wellness promotion and education for over a decade. They first met in the thick of a Star in your Own Stories (SIYOS) Workshop when Jada was working with Chee Mamuk, a program of the BC Centre for Disease Control. Chee Mamuk’s mandate is to provide culturally appropriate, on-site, community-based HIV, AIDS and STI education and training to Aboriginal communities, organizations, and professionals within British Columbia. Kat is the founder of social marketing company, Hello Cool World, and she brought a video crew to work with a group of youth to create short videos as part of the SIYOS workshop process.
their communities. They remain committed to the Drawing Wisdom project. Here is their story:
Drawing Wisdom is Kat and Jada’s new shared project, and it all began with a conversation and a contest entry, as a way of putting together the teachings they received from communities. They wanted to build a platform to sustain this kind of strengths-based work. Significantly, they maintained their relationships with the Indigenous youth, who are now in their twenties. These workshops combined HIV and STI education with hands-on opportunities for twelve teenagers to use camera gear, craft their own messages, and be the stars of their own story. Kat and Jada both knew that the youth’s stories held the wisdom to work towards healing
This was in 2007. In the years that followed, we went to three more communities, ending with Nak’azdli in Fort St. James in 2010.
Duane Grant was 15 when SIYOS came to his community, Kitamaat village. It was a snowy day in January when we travelled up the road to meet twelve youth from the Haisla Nation – People Of the Snow. As Duane says: “Star in Your Own Stories came to our community and changed all of our lives. It was something that we’d never had in our community before. SIYOS helped us learn by involving media, from making our own story to producing, recording, and acting in it. It was a lot of fun. We also learned about sexual health, which changed my life.”
HIV is still highly stigmatized and there are many reasons why people avoid talking or learning about it. Jada says: “As a sexual health educator, I felt that addressing the factors underlying the stigma wascrucial in HIV prevention. How we support each other is a powerful tool in both traditional prevention and activism. With every project we ever did, every community ended up with something that they loved and could keep using to educate about HIV and spread positive messaging about their community,
and the strength and resilience of their young people. The stories are about more than just HIV. They are about strong communities.” Says Kat: “Both of us have a health promotion background, but we are also artists and writers. This gives us less of a “governmental” or purely “medical” perspective. Seeing first hand what kind of impact creative projects have on the youth who participate and the spin-off for the entire community inspired us. We also realized that what worked for HIV education could be applied to any issue. The root causes are shared. And so are the roots of healing.” The process that we followed for SIYOS was laid out in Chee Mamuk’s community readiness model. The first step was always to ensure that the community was ready to talk about HIV and AIDS. If a community does not acknowledge HIV as a problem, the appropriate steps to take are very different than those we would use in a community thatdoes. This applies to all communities and issues with which they are contending. Chee Mamuk would put out a call to community health centres and communities would apply. Once a community was selected, they would commit resources to the workshop, and once a group of youth was confirmed, a date was set for the workshop to take place.
1This project was first conceptualized as “Drawing Wisdom From The Well” our entry into Operation Blue Sky Aboriginal Health Initiative Challenge, where it won the People’s Choice Award with over 5000 votes.
THE MUSE • SPRING 2017