First Nations Women’s Healing: Moving from Hardship to Resilience Photo-essay


This photo-essay is part of The Women’s Health Research Project on FASD Prevention in First Nations Communities conducted by the Canada FASD Research Network.

The project involved 37 First Nations Women from four different communities: Piikani Nation (Alberta), Sandy Bay Nation (Manitoba), St. Mary’s First Nation (New Brunswick) and Woodstock First Nation (New Brunswick).

Photovoice is a research approach that uses photography as a tool to move towards meaningful and respectful dialogue. Women participating in the project were asked to explore the question “What does health and healing look like for you in your community?” as an entry to discussion about issues such as substance use, pregnancy, FASD, and overall health.

The photo-essay explores how health and healing for many First Nations women is based on relationships – with land, with family and friends, with community, and with culture. Preventing FASD requires attention to creating and rebuilding these relationships.

View the photo-essay here. Learn more about the Canada FASD Research Network here.

Learn more about a related project in Canada’s Northwest Territories in an earlier post: Brightening Our Home Fires: An FASD Prevention and Women’s Health Project in Canada’s Northwest Territories (May 6, 2013).

Read more about Photovoice as a research method in FASD prevention in the journal article “An exploratory study on the use of Photovoice as a method for approaching FASD prevention in the Northwest Territories” published in The First Peoples Child and Family Review here (open access).





First Peoples Child & Family Review journal: Special Issue on FASD


The First Peoples Child & Family Review is a Canadian journal dedicated to interdisciplinary research honouring the voices, perspectives and knowledges of First Peoples through research, critical analyses, stories, standpoints and media reviews.

The Fall 2013 issue focuses specifically on FASD. Dorothy Badry and Tara Hanson describe the importance of this focus in the introduction:

“This special edition of The First Peoples Child & Family Review explores the social issue of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) from the perspectives, experiences and needs of Aboriginal peoples. It recognizes that the context of FASD in Aboriginal communities is unique, and cannot be properly acknowledged or addressed through generalized studies and services.

As the articles in this edition illustrate, the issue and experience of Aboriginal peoples and FASD must be understood within the context of colonization and its intergenerational impacts. Without this critical lens, research findings and service recommendations may be inappropriate to Aboriginal families or communities. Mainstream programs developed from a Euro-Western perspective may conflict with Aboriginal worldviews.

The articles in this edition portray the human experience of struggles with alcohol, the role of history and trauma in adverse life outcomes as well as the existence of socioeconomic disparities. Experiences with child welfare and legal systems are chronicled, disruptions, difficulties and repercussive impacts of secondary disabilities. Along with the adversities, however, are powerful themes of hope, healing, promising practices, capabilities, and strength found through caring relationships.” (p. 5)

Several articles focus on FASD prevention and tackle topics such as developing community programs for pregnant and early parenting women who use alcohol and other substances that operate from an Indigenous knowledge framework, FASD prevention with women who have FASD themselves, and insights from workers in a home visitation program for women with a history of alcohol and drug abuse.

Many people continue to mistakenly believe that FASD is primarily an Indigenous issue (this is definitely not the case – FASD is an issue wherever women drink alcohol during pregnancy). It is true, though, that many Indigenous communities have been working to address FASD and related social concerns for longer than many non-Indigenous communities – this special issue highlights some of the leadership and innovation that many communities have taken in the past few years.

View the table of contents and download free full-text for all the articles here.


Brightening Our Home Fires: An FASD Prevention and Women’s Health Project in Canada’s Northwest Territories

fire graduated

Brightening Our Home Fires was an FASD prevention and women’s health research project that ran for two years (2010- 2012) in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The purpose of the project was to explore individual and community awareness and understanding of concerns that might lead to the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy and births of children with FASD.

This project worked primarily with Dene and Inuit women, and used Photovoice, a participatory visual methodology (learn more here), to explore health and healing in four different communities: Yellowknife, Behchokö, Ulukhaktok, and Lutsel K’e. You can check out the research summary here.

Members of the research team, Dorothy E Badry, Arlene Hache, Amy Salmon, and Aileen Wight Felske, discussed the research project at the 5th International Conference on FASD held in February 2013 and the slides from the presentation can be viewed here.

Dorothy Badry, Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary, also spoke about the project at an evening session on FASD prevention and the YouTube video clip can be viewed here. She comments:

“The women involved in this project lived in urban, remote, and island-based communities where supports and treatment are often not available or offered at a distance…. Health for women in the North is impacted by distance, lack of resources, harsh climate and the challenges of living in remote communities. Health is the precursor, the underlying foundation, to FASD prevention. Healthy living means social, emotional, and physical connectedness to people, their culture, and the land.”

If you’re interested in learning more about culturally specific FASD prevention, you might want to check out the latest webinar from the Alberta FASD Learning series. The webinar, “Through a Métis Lens: Culturally Specific FASD Prevention and Intervention” held on February 20, 2013  has now been posted on the FASD Cross-Committee website here.

For more on FASD prevention in Canada’s North, see earlier posts: