Elder Roberta

Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers are highly respected members of Indigenous communities who have gained lived experiences, and preserved the cultural wisdom and knowledge passed down through their maternal lineage and ancestral traditions. They have been held in high regard and power in Indigenous communities for many generations. They possess unique insights into traditional healing practices and Indigenous worldviews, which can help to overcome the cultural barriers that often prevent Indigenous peoples from accessing care.

To ensure that Indigenous voices are heard and included in our health system, VCH has established the Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers Advisory Committee.

This committee is composed of Indigenous Elders, clinicians and Indigenous Health team members who work within VCH and in their communities to bring Indigenous ways of knowing and connect with Indigenous clients. This collaboration is unique among the health authorities in B.C. By channeling the voices of Indigenous women and their families from their communities, the Committee advises VCH Indigenous Health leadership, meets with other committees and directors and brings forward issues from community members.

Elder Roberta

"As Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers, we carry the teachings of our ancestors and have a calling to ensure the wellbeing of our communities. Our lived experiences, knowledge and cultural practices help bring comfort to patients and show how Indigenous Peoples can take care of themselves and others. We are working toward a culturally safe health care system which is respectful of Indigenous worldviews and practices to create a brighter future for generations to come.”

- Elder Roberta Price, a key member of the Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee's work is crucial to advancing systemic change and improving health care outcomes for Indigenous peoples. Recently, the Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers gathered the experiences of Indigenous pregnant people on their perinatal substance use journey. Together, they highlighted the need for more trauma-informed care, harm reduction approaches and cultural safety of service providers in perinatal care to help shield Indigenous birthers during the most vulnerable time of their life.

Beyond their work on the Advisory Committee, Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers work directly with Indigenous patients to support culturally safe and trauma-informed care. They advocate for the rights and needs of Indigenous peoples, develop care plans that address underlying issues and connect patients with traditional healing practices. Their work with pregnant people helps keep families together and prevent intergenerational trauma.

Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers model the holistic health care approach which includes spiritual aspects. While they can't take away other people's pain, they can ease it with their comforting presence and cultural practices. This presence is a reminder to those around them that even during their struggles they are loved, have a place where they belong and will always be welcome. This kindness, resilience and acceptance gives others a positive blueprint to follow in their own lives.

Through their prominent and trusted position in the Indigenous community, Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers on the Advisory Committee foster the connection between Indigenous clients and VCH. They help detect silos and gaps in health care and act quickly in crisis like a heat wave or a pandemic. During the last heat dome, they were key in assessing the needs of Indigenous clients in the vulnerable community of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Their efforts were essential in allowing VCH to provide the right care quickly.

Matriarchs and Knowledge Keepers play a vital role in decolonizing health care and creating a better health care system for all.

By tapping into Indigenous histories, oral storytelling and years of knowledge, they bring forward innovative ideas to improve wellness and contribute to reconciliation by constructing common truths and understandings. Their insights and connections help bridge the gap between Indigenous and mainstream health care systems and ensure that Indigenous voices are included.

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