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NEIHR Northwest Territories Network Environment
for Indigenous Health Research


Kyle Napier

Can you please introduce yourself?

Sezí Kyle Napier súlye. Shéthocho násthër. I am quite excited to be working with my language community and with my community from a distance and from my heart.

How do you feel that you have contributed to health research?

I have joined several projects in which health is directly connected with the vitality of Indigenous languages in community. In each of these projects, my colleagues and I have ensured that there are resources for those who are hoping to connect with their language that are accessible and available, and that people can use to revitalize the language in their home communities. I have also been involved with other projects where we’ve bridged the digital divide through the connection between health outcomes and digital accessibility and tools. Some of the questions we ask, particularly given the context of COVID and the pandemic, are: what does it mean for those that don’t have the community resources available to communicate by video technology across their community or with Elders? If there wasn’t digital literacy training, what does it mean for those who have the technology but don’t know how to use it? And, how can we ensure that those tools are accessible across communities?

How has belonging to community supported you in your journey?

This is often referred to as insider-outsider research – when you are both a community member and working with community on behalf of a university or research organization. Working with community as a community member holds me accountable not only to the research that is being conducted with community but also as a community member myself. I think that’s really important to emphasize because all too often, people who are non-members of community will conduct research in Indigenous communities and they will come away with measurements of different indicators, which are not reflective of the values of that community. A big focus of Indigenous health research, and the research that I participate in, is working with communityto develop community-defined health indicators.

Another way that I contribute to the field of Indigenous health research is by ensuring that when I am representing a project that speaks for Indigenous health of a specific community, group, or language, that I co-present with a member of that specific community, group, or language. For example, when I presented at one of the world’s leading language revitalization conferences, Dr. Candance Galla who led the conference, started the conference by saying: ‘If you are here representing a language and you are not a member of that language community or group and you did not invite a member of that language community or group, then you are the savage.’ I thought that was the way to initiate a conference like that – particularly given the ongoing extractive nature of research conducted on Indigenous peoples as opposed to with, by, and for Indigenous peoples.

What are two things you are most excited about this year?

I am most excited about a video game that I am developing that will roll out to students and classes in the South Slave Divisional Education Council and about starting my doctoral research in the Education Policy Studies Program at the University of Alberta.

Where did your interest in health research come from and where do you think it might take you? 

It became immediately apparent to me that health and language are intrinsically connected, even if it’s the connections which are not so explicit. So, in learning one’s Indigenous language, you are often learning about harvesting medicines and berries or harvesting moose or caribou or skunk or porcupine. For instance, in Dene Yati, you really start to understand why these organs or these medicines have those names. In sakaw-nêhiyawêwin, in Bush Cree, there’s the word — otêhimin — and that means ‘heart berry’, which is ‘strawberry’ in the English language. It’s called otêhimin in nêhiyawêwin because they’ve deduced through thousands of years of Indigenous health science that the strawberry is really good for your heart. They’ve also undergone Indigenous research methodological processes to determine the value of smudge medicines. For me, language and health wasn’t my immediate focus but the correlation is undeniable.

In terms of where I think my interest in health research might take me, I would really like to set up a land and language camp for Dene Yati.