Our ancestors are in our land, water, and air: A ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’ approach to researching environmental health concerns with Pictou Landing First Nation

2012-2015

CIHR 2011 Operating Grant

Boat Harbour near Pictou Landing
Boat Harbour near Pictou Landing

In the 1960s, amidst other resource extraction and industrial development initiatives, in an area characterized by economic disparities, a pulp and paper mill began dumping pollutants into Boat Harbour; it continues to do so today albeit with increasingly sophisticated treatment practices. Despite these pollution checks and controls, Boat Harbour has become a dumping ground for toxic waste, a place of fear and unrest, embroiled in political, legal and economic tension, and rife with environmental health concerns for members of the First Nation and for others living throughout Pictou County. Frustrated and anxious about their children’s health, the Pictou Landing Native Women’s Association has mobilized, wanting to undertake relevant community-based health research in search of a definitive and trustworthy answer to this question: “Are we getting sick from Boat Harbour?”. As such, our research goal for this community-based participatory health project is to document and understand the state of health of Boat Harbour’s constituents from a Two-Eyed Seeing approach that utilizes a number of Indigenous and western research methods to meet this goal. Given that the Mi’kmaq worldview respects the plurality of knowledge, we are using a Two-Eyed Seeing approach that utilizes diverse Mi’kmaq and western knowledge perspectives to confront the socio-political, historical, environmental, legal, and economic imperatives at play in Boat Harbour, all of which play a role in determining the health of the community’s residents.