By Michelle Daoust, Communications Kitatipithitamak Mithwayawin
Kitatipithitamak Mithwayawin: Indigenous-Led Planning and Responses to COVID-19 and other Pandemics, Then, Now, and into the Future, better known as COVID-19 Indigenous, is a research project that received full funding from the CIHR Rapid Research call for Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The call was made by the Canadian Institute of Health and Research (CIHR) mid-February in efforts to help manage and reduce the severity of the pandemic both socially and medically across Canada. The project name, Kitatipithitamak Mithwayawin was chosen by Cree Elders Donald and Phyllis Hart. Loosely translated into English the Cree name means Indigenous controlled ways of doing and approaching health and well-being. Funding was received by mid-March, shortly after the call and just as Manitoba’s Provincial pandemic strategy emerged and began being implemented.
With the rapid onset and measures enforced to reduce the devastating impacts of the pandemic, the COVID-19 Indigenous project started with a communications approach and presence to better share current news, health measures and to record statistics and responses within Indigenous communities to the pandemic. Covid19Indigenous.ca website was developed at the same time as our social media pages.
Within a short period of time it became quickly noticeable how many people turned to social media to access information and to provide connection to the outside world and community, while being isolated. We realized that we needed to provide more meaningful content to our social media forum to share knowledge, fill gaps in communications and provide support in a culturally significant and meaningful way to our website and Facebook reach.
One of our first communications projects began with Dr. Ramona Neckoway. Dr. Neckoway has and continues to work on a video short series called Kahkakiw’s Straight Talk on Coronavirus, featuring Kahkakiw, a Cree speaking raven puppet whose voice comes from Cree puppeteer Samson Hunter from Northern Manitoba. Cree Elder Phyllis Hart has explained that the raven is known traditionally as an environmental protector and cleaner.
Kahkakiw has reached thousands of people through our Facebook forum providing a trusted source of information on local, provincial, and national pandemic related health measures combined with concerns and responses among and within communities. Kahkakiw communicates health messaging that will resonate with communities culturally and linguistically through Cree language and through humor, drawing a continued following. The Straight Talk series has developed to include talking with Kids, Elders and political figures reaching over 16k viewers.
Follow Kahkakiw and his adventures at https://www.facebook.com/covid19indigenous
In addition to our Kahkakiw Straight Talk Series, our Facebook page has received and continues to attract many followers nationally and globally. The community is enriched by content created through culturally relevant infographics and our webinar series that touches on meaningful educational, social, and political topics that reflect Indigenous communities. A glimpse of our webinar series includes Land-based Education, Food Sovereignty, and Hydro in Indigenous Territories with more exciting topics and panelists to look forward to. Stay tuned in our next blog to find out more.