Storytelling and wellbeing

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Aboriginal Health was invited to participate in a project with key collaborators from UNBC and the First Nations Health Authority about the use of storytelling and narrative in relation to health and well-being in northern British Columbia. Supported by funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the project hosted a two-day gathering and workshop at the end of January in Smithers, BC. As part of this event, we were treated to a screening of a digital story from Knowledge holders and Elders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation called Yin kak honzu: The earth is beautiful.

Storytelling is a way of sharing and interpreting experiences and lends itself to bridging cultural, linguistic, age and other divides. Oral storytelling is an important part of many First Nations and Aboriginal cultures and has been for thousands of years. Recently we are starting to see this oral tradition emerge across diverse disciplines and settings in multiple forms, including digital storytelling, photovoice, literature, poetry, traditional oral storytelling, theatre, and personal narrative, to name a few. 

In September 2014, members of the Aboriginal Health team presented to a Northern Health leadership forum on storytelling. In the presentation, participants had an opportunity to select a personal story, draw it symbolically, and share it with another participant. The experience allowed participants to be both storytellers and listeners and to reflect on the impact of the process on their relationship with their story and with each other. The experience showed how storytelling can be a simple and yet transformational process for communicating, reflecting, and building connections.

For more on stories and health, read this short commentary by Sarah de Leeuw in Stories in Family Medicine.

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