Author Archives: Tara Erb

BC NEIHR Blog Spotlight Post: Trails BC and the Tmixw Trails Program & Great Blue Heron Way


The BC NEIHR is working to give Indigenous leaders in community, wellness, research, and health a voice by conducting spotlight interviews on the wonderful work being conducted. The first of these spotlight interviews can be found below with Sage Flett Kruger, an Indigenous woman of the Okanagan Nation working with Trails BC to create a more inclusive and safe space for Indigenous people.

 Interview by Laine Grace, Interior IHRF


Can you please start off by quickly introducing yourself and your role?



Wai, Husk’al’hault, incha iskwist Sage Flett Kruger. I’m speaking to you today from my traditional territory of the Okanagan Nation. I am the Indigenous engagement manager for Trails BC.


What projects/work/ideas /events are you working on right now that you are most excited about?



The project I am most excited about right now is our Tmixw Trails program. This program was developed to engage and inspire Indigenous youth and families to participate and be active on trails throughout the Okanagan territory. The premise is holistic learning, engaging, walking tours of trails for participants. Included in the tour we have Elders and/or knowledge keepers telling traditional stories in relations to the lands we are touring. This would include the use of both English and Nsyilxcen (Okanagan) languages. There are additional fun components including actives such as bird/plant bingo. 


What inspired you to do this amazing work?



In our culture, land and health are closely linked. Land is the ultimate nurturer of people. It provides not only physical but emotional and spiritual sustenance. It inspires and provides beauty. It nurtures our souls. We, in turn, have a reciprocal duty as stewards of the land.

There are times when it feels like Indigenous persons are unseen or overlooked when planning is done by municipalities, regions, districts, etc. Trails BC, however, is actively working to create a diverse and inclusive space for all people to enjoy being active on trails in the region. I was pleased to be hired on as the Indigenous Engagement manager to facilitate the creation of programs dedicated to Indigenous peoples and having a space to feel safe and connected with one another.


Can you speak more about your role with Trails BC and what it means to you?



I am not an Indigenous Health Researcher, however my role as Indigenous Engagement Manager for Trails BC is directly related to community and individual wellness. More often, in the mainstream, health is measured using a variety of health indicators that do not always reflect Indigenous wellness indicators. Holistic well-being in our community includes mental, emotional, spiritual and physical factors. On a community level, we consider the abundance of language speakers as an indicator of wellness. Handing down our traditional stories and traditional knowledge impacts our wellbeing. Our Tmixw project touches on a balance of many of these factors.


Inviting our Indigenous community members to participate in the Tmixw Trails program may provide an opportunity for our youth to feel seen and heard and to ask questions related to the territory. Having Elders participate and feel safe and comfortable enough to share their stories, all of these things are vital to our community wellness.


Do you feel your upcoming events/work/ideas benefits community wellness? Or how do you envision it benefiting individuals and communities?



Land is what sustains us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. A holistic vision of wellness includes activity and walking trails are a perfect setting. Values that support and uphold wellness include Respect, Wisdom, Responsibility and Relationships. The connecting factor is to include a diverse age group. By doing this work we hope to empower our youth to connect more with Elders and Knowledge Keepers from the community.


Can you explain the importance of these Trails events being ‘Indigenous only’ spaces?



Having a program that is only focused on Indigenous people creates a safe space for our youth, Elders, and other community members to be fully present with one another and to embrace our Indigenous roots. Where we are underrepresented or feel unwelcome it is unlikely that we will participate. Getting our community members on or off reserve and out onto trails they may not have explored before can provide a balance between physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness.


Why are these trails projects important for Indigenous communities, collectives, and organizations / what benefit will these projects have to health and wellness?



Maintaining a healthy, balanced life as well as showing leadership through modelling wellness and healthy behaviours will be the take-away from out program.  We intend to create a program that will become a model/template we can us and implement it in other areas throughout BC.


Have you received funding to do this work? If so from where?



Yes, we are grateful for the generous support from the Stober Foundation.


Is there anything else you would like to share about your work?



Trails BC is also working on a project called The Great Blue Heron way. It is a project to connect First Nation communities with active transportation routes for safe and accessible transportation for people from these communities along with people who have disabilities and others, as well as people who may not have access to vehicles or are not able to afford other transportation.


In Metro Vancouver, Tsawwassen Elder Xwasteniya (Ruth) will lead the development of a First Nations vision for the Great Blue Heron Way working with the Indigenous youth we will hire to engage other First Nations. This will help re-establish traditional linkages between Coast Salish communities and reframe the lens of trails and active transportation to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and contemporary and historical understandings of the land.


What advice would you give other communities planning projects like yours?



Wellness starts with individuals who then influence their families, who then influence their communities, who in turn influence their regions. Outreach to your communities is key. Having collaborative group talks with the youth. Elder’s, leadership. Getting to feedback from your community will always help your project and build relationships. Make sure the communities you are working within are represented in your decision-making process. Cultural safety is an outcome based on respectful engagement that recognizes and strives to address power imbalances inherent in the many mainstream systems. Ensure your environment is free of racism and discrimination. Respect is about honouring where we come from: our cultures, traditions, and ourselves. Wisdom includes knowledge of language, traditions, culture, and medicine. 

2021 Indigenous Graduate Student Research Showcase

NEW! BC NEIHR – IMNPN Publication

2021 Indigenous Graduate Student Research Showcase

On January 1, 2021, the BC NEIHR and IMN PN collaboratively launched this interdisciplinary Indigenous Graduate Student Research Showcase of papers focused on Indigenous wellness. For this special showcase, we invited Indigenous Masters and Doctoral students from British Columbia universities to submit their work.

We received six submissions that moved on to peer review. Those included submissions from the University of British Columbia, Royal Roads University, and Simon Fraser University.

Working closely with our Editor, Robline Davey, who is an Indigenous Doctoral student from SFU, students received one-on-one mentoring about how to properly format a submission for a peer reviewed publication. Robline’s position represents our practices of an Indigenous mentorship model, or cascading mentorship, in which she (a doctoral student) was provided the opportunity to gain experience as an Editor (with mentorship and support from the BC NEIHR operational team), as well as mentor more junior students in preparing manuscripts for publication.

The peer reviewers include six senior Indigenous doctoral students from BC as well as members of the Operational Team. Following an iterative process, the role of each reviewer was to provide comments and suggestions on the content as well as offer ways to strengthen written presentation of the work. Each submission was assessed by two reviewers.

This showcase provides a forum for BC Indigenous graduate researchers’ work and was an opportunity for them to receive peer mentorship and strengthen their writing skills. As well, the Editor and peer reviewers were provided with mentorship on how to review manuscripts from a strength-based, Indigenous perspective. 

To read the Showcase: Click here

Honouring our Realities, Reconnecting to Self, and Engaging with All Our Relations as Key to Overcoming Graduate School Slump

Post by Stephanie Day

The past year has been…so complex. Each person, family, community, and Nation will have their own unique experience of what the past year has been like and meant for them. From the many global challenges, injustices, and movements, to the smaller, more personal challenges that spurred existential fears and wonderings. All of these existential thoughts, experiences, and challenges all occurred during a pivotal point in my academic career – crunch time for completing a master’s degree and thesis. If I am being honest, there were months dispersed among the past year where very little work was accomplished; little inner work, schoolwork, and even paid work. I would sometimes feel numb to the raw intensity of what life was providing me during this time, passing the days with mindless television and constant pervasive thoughts and worry for loved ones. I would think of activities I could engage in that might support me to find my way back to myself and my schoolwork, but even those activities seemed to be too much. I have started finding my way back to myself through small daily steps, including: working out of an office (as opposed to my bedroom that I worked out of for one year), scheduling tasks into my calendar and making a commitment to try to stick to the schedule (although remaining easy on myself when I do not), attempting to go for walks in nature daily, and appreciating the birds singing, the ocean’s heartbeat, and the strength behind the crisp air that gives us life. When I honoured and acknowledged the weight of our current realities, began to process those realities, started to reconnect to myself, and started to relate again to all our relations, I found an open path inviting me back toward my thesis. Ceremonial honouring of the people, ancestors, and all relations that permeate that work has been special. Shifting my mindset from the Western standards and pressures to finish to one of respect, honour, reverence, reciprocity, responsibility, and gratitude has re-awakened my relationship to my thesis and those I have encountered throughout it. It is deeply motivating for me to remember the relationships I am accountable to, including those of the future generations. Each year I gain, I appreciate more and more how precious and fragile life, relationships, and all our relations are as we constantly seek to make meaning of our universe – at least to me, it feels a lot better to do it while honouring all our relations.

Stephanie Day works as a Community Research Liaison for the BC NEIHR. She is currently completing her Master’s in Counselling Psychology at the University of Victoria.

BC Indigenous Artist Margaret August Creates BC NEIHR Logo

We are very excited to announce that the BC NEIHR logo has been created! The logo design was created by Indigenous artist Margaret August. This is the story behind the image. The three Salmon in the logo represent our three key partners: First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC). These community-led organizations are leading BC NEIHR health and wellness research initiatives across BC. This logo also represents the land and water-based practices of First Nations, Métis and Inuit. While traditions are connected to our diverse cultures, we acknowledge and celebrate our common and enduring relationships to the land and waters. Salmon represent a source of strength and wisdom; despite strong currents, they always return to the place of creation. Coming full circle, Salmon finish what they begin, bringing cycles to closure. 

Artist Margaret August is a Two-Spirited, Coast Salish artist from Shíshálh Nation. Margaret was born in 1983 in the traditional unceded WSÁNEĆ and lək̓ʷəŋən territories. This is also where she has been building her skills as a professional artist. Margaret’s work is inspired by her ancestral teachings and encounters with nature. Margaret originally began developing her artistic talents at an early age. She carried on with her visual art practice as she became an adult. Some of her artistic influences include renowned artists such as Susan Point, Mark Preston, and Butch Dick. Margaret has been showing work in group art shows since 2011, by taking the necessary time to grow as an artist while developing her own style, and in her business skills. In 2019, Margaret started working with further training under the guidance and mentorship of fellow Coast Salish Artist, Dylan Thomas to sharpen her skill set towards advancing the foundation in the nuances of Salish art design. This has led to creating art in multiple mediums such as serigraph/giclee prints, glass and cedar sandblasted pieces. Now, she is learning how to carve on wood. Margaret is committed to her art practice as she believes it is her life’s purpose.

For more info you can check Margaret out on Facebook, at Margaret August Art, or