Sharing the Stories of Indigenous-Led COVID Vaccine Clinics
Trent student researchers interviewed esteemed local Indigenous leaders about their success in helping implement 35 vaccination clinics specifically for Indigenous Peoples in the Peterborough/Nogojiwanong area
Trent University students had a “unique and amazing” opportunity to work with several prestigious local Indigenous leaders about their efforts to spearhead COVID-19 vaccination clinics specifically for Indigenous Peoples.
Through the INDG 3813Y (Indigenous Studies Research Methodology) course, taught by Dr. Lynne Davis, a professor in the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies, 22 undergraduate students interviewed the leaders about their experiences collaborating with Peterborough Public Health (PPH). In these interviews, students studied how these leaders fought for the prioritization of Indigenous peoples, planned strategies, implemented culturally engaging clinics, addressed vaccine hesitancy and mobilized volunteers.
“This was an excellent relationship-building experience with highly-respected Indigenous leaders in the Peterborough/Nogojiwanong area,” Professor Davis says. “These leaders represent different parts of the urban Indigenous community and are normally busy, but this was a unique opportunity because they had come together to form the Urban Indigenous Vaccine Working Group (UIVWG).”
Professor David Newhouse, chair of the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies, played a key role in getting the research started. As a member of the UIVWG himself, he suggested that students interview members as part of a timely and important community-based research project.
“This opportunity shows the value of building Indigenous peoples into the institutional structure of Canada and the provinces,” shared Prof. Newhouse. “Because of the long-standing relationship between Curve Lake and Peterborough Public Health, students were able to complete excellent and meaningful projects to support the community.”
Student researchers interviewed 11 Indigenous leaders, as well as leadership at Peterborough Public Health to create their final report.
Storytelling used to decolonize methodology
The report documents how the leaders representing First Nations, Métis, and urban Indigenous peoples championed Indigenous prioritization in the vaccine rollout and subsequently implemented 35 vaccine clinics in Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations, and in key communities.
“Storytelling was used as a decolonizing methodology and method following current practices in respectful Indigenous research,” Prof. Davis adds.
This collaboration is communicated in three key approaches. The first approach reconstructs the chronological development, including how the UIVWG successfully gained a seat at PPH decision-making tables and went on to help implement the clinics, including helping to book appointments.
Secondly, it focuses on relational accountability, emphasizing themes of respect, responsibility and reciprocity that contributed to the collaboration’s success.
Finally, it responds to the specific questions that PPH asked the research team to address including ‘How and in what ways were the vaccination clinics for Indigenous groups successful?’ and ‘What can be learned from these experiences that can be brought forward to inform relationships in the future?’
‘Unveiling the larger story’
Student Katie Zwart says she enjoyed the practical nature of the research – including learning how to create a consent form and interview questions – as well as seeing the larger picture unfold.
“I feel as though the hands-on work that we were able to do with this project taught me more about research, and the enormous amount of work that comes with it, than any textbook ever could,” she says.
Student Emma Mallon says it was rewarding to learn in real-time about how Indigenous leaders were facing challenges during a pandemic.
“Teamwork, communication, and having the mindset to be open to learning were so prevalent in each and very interview,” she says. “This experience allowed me to witness history in the making for vaccination clinics and Indigenous voices being heard.”
For more than 50 years, Trent has incorporated traditional teachings and perspectives into its curricular and extra-curricular programming. Learn more about what the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies has to offer.