We are celebrating the inaugural BC Indigenous Nurses Day on April 10 – a day chosen in honour of Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture, Canada's first Indigenous nurse.
In 2020, during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the New Zealand Nurses' Organization (NZNO) stated that "the historical figures whom we choose to venerate say a lot about who we are" and became the first national nursing organization to publicly choose not to celebrate nurses on May 12 – a day chosen in honour of nurse Florence Nightingale. At the height of the British Empire, Nightingale played an active role in colonial legacies.
Locally, the BC Nurses' Union, in partnership with the Canadian Institute of Health Research, Canadian Nurses Foundation, First Nations Health Authority and Thomson Rivers University and supported by the Canadian Federation of Nursing Unions, has declared April 10 as BC Indigenous Nurses Day. In doing this, the Union celebrates the contribution of all past and present Indigenous nurses while consciously disconnecting from the colonial history of the initial nurse recognition day.
Indigenous nurses bring their Indigenous culture, teachings and worldviews into their roles, ensuring that Indigenous patients have access to the supports and traditional medicines needed for healing. Indigenous nurses continue to lead this health care change for their patients and clients, families, communities and nations. More Indigenous nurses are needed in all areas of health care across Canada as well as within VCH where recruitment is ongoing.
To Indigenous nurses at VCH as well as across B.C., we would like to thank you for your dedication and caring to the well-being of all people when they need it most.
Indigenous Health's nursing leaders share their reflections on being a nurse.
“I have had the privilege of caring for patients and families for almost 20 years. Nursing has always been the science and art of health care – where we learn how to apply the science with empathy, compassion and human connectedness to deliver the work with care for patients and families. I always thought that I was just lucky because I could find a way to connect with people easily. What I know now is that this way of making connections and caring for each other was instilled in me because of my upbringing – that connection is a pillar of my Indigenous culture. My great grandmother was a medicine woman, and like so many Indigenous nurses and medicine women like her, it was taken from her. We are now witnessing the strength in spirit of the Indigenous people and I am thankful and grateful to the Indigenous nurses and medicine men and women that came before me. My role as an Indigenous nurse is the most honourable role I have ever been responsible for. On this day, I honour all the Indigenous nurses who came before me and all those who will come after me."
“I love being a nurse. My heart and soul is filled with passion, enthusiasm, happiness and joy to be of service to humanity. As a nurse, I have been given the opportunity to work with so many amazing leaders and Elders serving Indigenous women, children, families and communities. As an Indigenous nurse for more than 24 years, I have had the honour to serve all people but my current role in Indigenous Leadership which enables me to advocate, support and provide a culturally safe environment for Indigenous peoples and their communities is the most fulfilling. Nursing leadership is an opportunity to be creative, innovative and resourceful to transform and change the health care system to make it a safe, caring, respectful space for Metis, First Nations and Inuit patients and their families. Nursing is a gift that I have received from my Ancestors; to fulfil my life's journey."
“Nursing is a powerful and privileged profession that I am incredibly proud to be a part of. Nursing also has a long history of complicity in racism, colonialism and active perpetuation of harms against Indigenous peoples – intentionally and unintentionally – even today. I think it is incredibly important to acknowledge this has not been an easy journey for Indigenous nurses to do the work of showing up for their communities and families to care for them, while also facing racism and discrimination. Starting with from Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture until now, doing this work is an incredible commitment which demonstrates so many community and Nation values. To me, it is important that the increasing awareness of the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization on the lives of Indigenous people also tells the stories of strength, resistance, presence and influence that Indigenous people have always had in all areas. It's powerful to see the first Indigenous Nurse being recognized and honoured."
Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture (often known simply as Edith Monture), Mohawk First World War veteran, registered nurse. She was born on April 10, 1890 on Six Nations reserve near Brantford, ON and died on April 3, 1996 in Ohsweken, ON. Edith was the first Indigenous woman to become a registered nurse in Canada and to gain the right to vote in a Canadian federal election. She was also the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the United States military and broke barriers for Indigenous women in the armed forces and with regards to federal voting rights.
Read more about Monture.
Madeleine Dion Stout, Cree author, speaker, and health care professional also made a significant impact on this profession. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2015.
Madeleine was born on Kehewin First Nation, Alberta. She graduated as a registered nurse from the Edmonton General Hospital in 1968. Madeline later went on to continue her education at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1982. Madeline was one of the first Indigenous women to graduate from a university level nursing program. In 1993, Madeline received a master's degree in international affairs from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.
Listen to this webinar interview on Cultural Safety: an Aboriginal Perspective on Service Provision Part 1 with Madeleine Dion Stout.
Thompson Rivers University has created BC Indigenous Health Nursing Student Caring Series. On April 11, join them for a morning grandmother's circle or for an afternoon or evening celebration. Learn more and register.
On April 10, the BC Nurses' Union's Indigenous Leadership Circle will honour Monture, this remarkable matriarch of Indigenous nursing, by co-hosting activities to celebrate Indigenous Nurses Day 2022.