Date of Award

2-2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Anthropology

Supervisor

Wayne Warry

Language

English

Abstract

Historically, Aboriginal perceptions of health and well-being emphasized the need for a collective balance among mind, body, spirit, emotion, and the environment. Illness and disease are believed to be caused by a disruption to this balance. Thus, traditional health practices are utilized to restore balance to either maintain or enhance overall health and well-being. This study examines how access to Anishnawbe Health Toronto, an Aboriginal community health center that offers traditional health practices within a multidisciplinary health care model affects urban Aboriginal health. In particular I examined the various facets of Aboriginal identity and how identity impacts the overall health and well-being of urban Aboriginal people. Specifically, I examined how Aboriginal identity is reaffirmed or established within the context of an urban Aboriginal community health care center and how identity affects the overall health and well-being of the clientele.

Through one to one open-ended interviews with the clients, traditional healers, traditional counselors, and biomedical practitioners four main themes emerged. The first theme concerns the establishment of Aboriginal ancestral descent among the clients. In addition to being a requirement to access the services at the center, it serves as a starting point for the establishment of an Aboriginal identity. The second theme concerns the establishment of an Aboriginal spirit name. The receiving of a spirit name serves as a spiritual foundation for an Aboriginal identity. The third theme focuses on the accumulation of Indigenous knowledge and its contribution to the establishment of an Aboriginal cultural identity. The fourth theme concerns the perception of Anishnawbe Health as a bounded Aboriginal community and its significance to the clientele. Through my analysis of these four themes I conclude that the establishment of an Aboriginal cultural identity has a positive effect on the overall health and well-being of urban Aboriginal people.

McMaster University Library

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