Culturally Committed

April 14, 2021

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Trading Bead and Beach Glass

My name is Kim Trottier, and I have been a dental therapist for twenty years. I am of settler ancestry, and feel privileged to reside upon the traditional unceeded territory of the Snaw Naw As People. Since 2014, I have worked exclusively with Indigenous Peoples, providing services to remote communities across Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It has been my privilege to be welcomed into the communities I serve. Many amazing people have provided me with guidance and mentorship; supporting my learning and development, and helping me become a more attuned clinician. They have helped me become more culturally safe in my practice.

In my years as a clinician, I have built strong relationships with Indigenous Peoples and communities. At times, I have been sought out, not for treatment, but because people are looking to talk with someone that they trust. Sometimes I am told stories about traumas that happened while in residential school or Indian hospitals. Other times, people will tell me about traumatic experiences they have had in local offices, including:

  • Feeling intimidated by overwhelming documents;
  • Feeling like diagnoses and treatment plans were not explained to their understanding (or not explained at all);
  • Feeling like treatment was done without their consent; and
  • Feeling triggered during an appointment, and not being given the space to manage the response to those triggers.

I do not take these stories lightly, and ensure each individual who shares their experience with me is aware of the existing resources available. Most often, individuals are not interested in pursuing any actions; they simply want to be heard.

Then, one day in October 2020, every single person I saw for treatment came to me with a story of a recent upsetting experience. I was stunned. Why was this happening so frequently? Further, what could be done to support providers in becoming more culturally safe in their practices? I experienced a moment of reflection, and recalled a quote from Dr. Evan Adams of the Tla’amin First Nation, which stated: “We will have achieved cultural safety when First Nations tell us we have.” Suddenly, I was struck with a thought — if providers had access to the kind of supportive mentorship that I have received, would the knowledge they gain help them become more attuned to what Indigenous individuals needed to feel safe and supported?

I felt like a lightning bolt had struck me, and experienced a profound feeling – I was being called to do something.

With this feeling in my heart, I sought out my dear friend and mentor, Dan Elliott of Stz’uminus First Nation. I shared with him the complaints, the idea, and the feeling. He told me that without a doubt, I was being called to do this work, and that it was my responsibility to answer that call.

I started embarking on a journey in a world I knew nothing about. But every time I struggled, or a barrier arose, a person would join me on my path and offer me guidance. This journey has been supported at every turn. My dear friend, Carmen George of Penelakut First Nation, told me that she felt the Ancestors were guiding my journey – and that this is why solutions come so readily at every obstacle.

On January 27, 2021, Culturally Committed launched. We offer a place where health and service providers can come to deepen their knowledge around the subject of cultural safety and humility. Four incredible mentors have stepped forward to guide learners on their path, and their humbleness and grace are truly remarkable. Those who join the Culturally Committed Community can look forward to:

  • Monthly workshops, facilitated by experts in the field of cultural safety and humility;
  • Monthly community calls, where questions that have come forward from the community are explored with the guidance of the Culturally Committed Mentors;
  • A private Facebook community, where members share their thoughts, ideas, and learning takeaways that arise from the monthly workshops; and
  • Inclusion in the Culturally Committed Providers’ Map, where the Indigenous community can go to seek out providers who are committed to improving the cultural safety of their practice.

The Culturally Committed community of providers is slowly and steadily growing. This community is dynamic and multidisciplinary, including individuals who work as physicians, oral health providers, chiropractors, nurses, pharmacists, counsellors, and educators. The questions that arise during Community Calls range from simple (“What does it mean when people raise their hands?”), to more complex (“What can we do when there are false allies in leadership roles?”). These questions are explored through open dialogue and conversation, guided by Indigenous mentors who offer their insights and perspectives.

I do my best to keep this work aligned with the teachings I’ve received, and reflect on them often in my day-to-day life. It was on such a day back in March that I parked my vehicle in the ferry lineup, waiting to depart from the island community of Penelakut. It was unseasonably mild, and I relished in the feeling of the warm sun upon my face. I decided to take a stroll along the beach as I waited, and while I walked, I thought about the teachings I have received from my dear friends and mentors Andrene Sam of Penelakut and Dan Elliot of Stz’uminus around the cultural significance of trading beads. I was carrying these thoughts as I peered around a log, and suddenly something red caught my eye. I stooped to have a closer look and was thrilled to realize — I had found my first trading bead! 

My heart was brimming as I returned to my car. When I sat down, my phone pinged with a message from my friend, Beau Wagner. He wanted to tell me that APTN Connections had shared my Culturally Committed post — at virtually the exact moment I’d found the bead.

Coincidence? It sure doesn’t feel like it.

If you are interested in learning more about Culturally Committed, you can find information on our website, at www.culturallycommitted.com.