CBU Researchers Part of Team that Receives CIHR Grant Grounded in Two-Eyed Seeing

Two-Eyed Seeing, a guiding principle for transcultural work, was pioneered by Mi’kmaw Elders and researchers at Cape Breton University (CBU).  It emphasizes learning to recognize the best in each of the Indigenous and Western knowledges when a collaborative approach is used for science education and research, and it is the foundation of a national, priority, competitive research award by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

With demonstrated leadership in a transcultural approach for health and science research, CBU is pleased to announce that Dr. Cheryl Bartlett, Professor Emerita Biology, and Tuma Young, Assistant Professor of Mi’kmaq Studies, are part of the successful research team, led by Dr. Frederic Wien of Dalhousie University, which has received this prestigious funding from CIHR. Their project, Building a Social Policy Framework for the Health and Well-being of Mi’kmaq Communities: A Two-Eyed Seeing Approach, has been awarded $446,395 over 3 years.

“Two-Eyed Seeing was first brought forward by Elder Albert Marshall of Eskasoni”, says Bartlett. “Through collaboration with CBU, in particular with me through a decade of work as Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science, the concept has developed to receive national recognition and has been adopted by many organizations and initiatives across Canada.  Elder Albert and I put great effort into promoting, explaining, growing, and sharing the concept nationally and further afield as an essential guiding principle for transcultural research in health, education, science, environmental sustainability, and natural resources management. This is the first time a highly competitive, national research funding program has called for the application of the Two-Eyed Seeing model – it signifies the profound importance of listening to, working with, and being guided by Aboriginal Elders who are their communities’ experts with respect to Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and ways of knowing. This is what the CIHR program expects the successful research award recipients to do – to deploy culturally appropriate Two-Eyed Seeing methodologies while conducting innovative Aboriginal peoples’ health research in Canada.”  

Using a Two-Eyed Seeing approach, Wien’s research team will examine the opportunity for Mi’kmaw people living in Nova Scotia’s 13 First Nation communities to design social policies and programs related to social assistance that suit their culture and community conditions. Research shows that life on social assistance is characterized by poverty, stress, insecurity and parenting challenges, which contribute to negative outcomes in health and well-being. This is particularly prominent in First Nation communities, where a high percentage of the population depends on social assistance for some or all of their income.

Wien comments, “I hope the research will provide valuable historical and contemporary information to the Mi’kmaq leadership as it strives to put in place a social policy framework that reflects Mi’kmaq traditions while also providing supports and opportunities to community members who wish to leave social assistance behind.”

The project is partnering with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs. “This research is important to our Mi’kmaw communities as it will provide us with a culturally-connected approach to social programming on-reserve,” says Chief Leroy Denny, Lead Chief of the Social file for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs. 

Other researchers working on the project include Carla Moore, Heather Castleden, and Debbie Martin from Dalhousie University; Jeffery Denis, McMaster University; Jane McMillan, St. Francis Xavier University, and Anita Benoit, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto.

For more information about Aboriginal programming and research at CBU visit www.cbu.ca/unamaki.