Issumatuq: Learning From The Traditional
Heating Wisdom of The Canadian Inuit.
Reviewed by Valerie Alia
In ISSUMATUQ: Learning from the Traditional Healing Wisdom of the Canadian Inuit, Kit Minor asserts:
"The Canadian Inuit have survived for centuries in an environment that outsiders have viewed as hostile to human life. Yet the Inuit have managed to survive and enhance their lifestyle, ensured the survival of future generations and provided a healthy psychological and emotional environment for themselves. These positive characteristics of Inuit culture have received relatively little attention."
This point applies to all Aboriginal cultures, not just that of Inuit. Minor's view, that learning must be two-way and health care community-directed, is shared by most of the authors of the Commission report.
The Commission would have benefitted from her outline of the specific strategies used to develop health care programs within the constraints of government perspectives and restrictions. While the book is clearly directed toward a better way of doing things in the future, it is grounded in present reality, and offers a view of what can be accomplished starting from the existing personnel and resources.
Minor teaches in the School of Social Work at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. ISSUMATUQ documents her ten years of experience working with Inuit in Inuvik and Cambridge Bay, where she helped to found Ekayuktit Nunalingna, "helpers of the helpers." These were community groups which provided culture-based service throughout Social Services in the Kitikmeot region of the Arctic. Minor originally went North as a social worker and later became Regional Superintendent and Chief of Staff Development and Training for the Department of Social Development, Government of the Northwest Territories.
Her book is a valuable resource in intercultural communication and health care development. It documents the evolution of a "culture-specific design" for addressing a full spectrum of physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs, defined as Inuit define them and addressed in a collaborative environment. Included is a review of the various influences of government, missionaries and other visitors to the North, and a proposal for a system of integrated care which integrates Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, southern and northern knowledge and stresses mutual respect.
A chapter is devoted to concerns of youth, including links between psychology and philosophy and programs for suicide-prevention. There is a short glossary of Inuktitut terms, a comprehensive bibliography, and an appendix containing a summary of the design for culture-specific helping.
Minor does precisely what the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples failed to do in The Path to Healing: she documents the development of several community health care programs, within the context of a principle of cooperation and knowledge-sharing between Inuit and Qallunaaq (nonInuit). This is a useful prototype for anyone interested in improving Aboriginal Health Care. and improving the relationship between government and community programs and practitioners.