A physical literacy strategy for urban indigenous families through the life cycle


Extensive historical, cultural, and social factors have contributed to poor health outcomes among Indigenous People in Canada (Adelson, 2005). In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) "call[ed] upon the federal government to support reconciliation by ensuring policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being" (p.10). Our community-based research project aimed to develop a Physical Literacy Strategy for Urban Indigenous Families Through the Life Cycle; this two-year project involved reciprocal collaboration between researchers and community members, with the aim of social change (DeLemos, 2006). Our conceptualization of physical literacy (Whitehead, 2016) was grounded in a holistic understanding of Indigenous People's health and wellness, including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions represented by the Medicine Wheel (Waldram, et al., 2006). The project included: (a) a community needs assessment conducted through six sharing circles (Lavallée, 2009) with 90 community members across the life course; these explored individuals' experiences related to health, wellness and physical activity, and perceptions of cultural connectedness; (b) a three-month physical literacy intervention program exposing participants to a range of health and wellness activities within the immediate and broader community; and (c) post-program discussions involving sharing and reflection. Five key recommendations emerged, offering an important starting point for change within this urban Indigenous community. We discuss the project in the context of previous research, the TRC's (2015) calls to action, and implications for a spectrum of stakeholders including government, educators, community organizations and partners.

Acknowledgments: We wish to acknowledge the community members who helped make this project possible by sharing their thoughts and experiences. We also wish to acknowledge the generous financial support provided by the City of Toronto, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario.