Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
There is little information on secular trends in the infant mortality rate (IMR) among aboriginal populations in Canada. Although the Canadian government began collecting vital statistics for Canadian Indians at the turn of the century, records prior to the 1960s have been deemed inaccurate (Romaniuk and Piche 1972; Latulippe-Sakamoto 1971). This thesis presents an historical study of infant mortality in the Cree community of Fisher River, Manitoba during the period from 1907 to 1939. The two major purposes of this thesis are: 1) to investigate infant mortality and community health conditions at Fisher River during the early twentieth century using parish records from the Methodist mission; and 2) to evaluate microlevel parish record data (as opposed to aggregate statistics used in national studies) as a source of information on historical trends in the IMR among aboriginal Canadians. The infant mortality rate was found to be persistently high during this time period (249 per 1000 live births). The IMR demonstrated a seasonal distribution pattern; high rates were strongly associated with winter, linked to undernutrition and airborne infectious disease. High fertility rates at young maternal ages during this period are thought to have contributed to high IMRs, although the underlying mechanisms are still elusive. There is some indication that a segment of families in the community had lower IMRs due to greater access to resources in the communify. However, it is concluded that high infant mortality reflected the overall health problems of the Fisher River reserve environment during this period. Finding studies, both historical and modern, comparable to these results is a challenge. Parish records, when used judiciously, are adv_ocated as a good source of data for investigating aboriginal health conditions prior to W.W.II. It is suggested that future research on infant mortality in aboriginal populations be community-based.
Moffat, Tina, "Infant Mortality in An Aboriginal Community: An Historical and Biocultural Analysis" (1992). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6962.
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