Using innovative, game-changing research methodologies and leveraging our resources, we aim to reduce HIV/HCV/STBBI inequities within, among and across Indigenous communities (rural/remote/urban, First Nation, Métis and Inuit). At the same time, we want to build the capacity to conduct transformative, community-engaged research that is community-based and patient-oriented regarding biomedical, behavioural and social-related causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of HIV/HCV/STBBIs while creating a student, trainee and community pathway.

Waniska’s interdisciplinary Indigenous leaders’ unique partnerships with Indigenous entities and HIV/HCV/STBBI organizations and networks across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada and the world informed the development of this Indigenous-led, regional, multi-tiered centre. Waniska has recruited Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts in Indigenous health and HIV/HCV/STBBI research who are internationally renowned. It is strongly grounded in Indigenous and complementary Western theoretical constructs, with the overarching aim to reframe and develop HIV/HCV/STBBIs prevention, screening to diagnostics, treatment, care and support.

Waniska is ideally located to address HIV/HCV/STBBIs associated issues among Indigenous people in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with connections to Alberta, the Northwest Territories and northwestern Ontario. While migratory patterns and service provision characterize this connection, this region, since time immemorial, has been linked by land, water, and the traditional knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of this place. The peoples rooted to this region have also faced similar expressions of colonialism and neocolonialism of a settler society administered through prairie government departments. This shared history, and the colonial impacts that are now expressed through high HIV/HCV/STBBI rates makes this region unique and ideal for our centre.

The Waniska Centre also addresses a major leadership gap. While Canadian HIV/HCV/STBBIs research has made tremendous strides over the past two decades, it has lacked Indigenous academic leadership at the regional level where action more readily translates into a positive difference. Waniska addresses this gap, and also builds on the Indigenous cultural knowledge of this region, which has informed this region’s Indigenous response to HIV for over the past thirty-years (McLeod, 2006). Led by strong Indigenous community advocates via story-telling methods and ceremony, a number of Indigenous frameworks have evolved over this period to describe this regions Indigenous perspective on HIV. For example, Leonard Johnston and Frederick Haineault created the HIV/AIDS Medicine Wheel (included four aspects and stages of life) in 1992, after consulting with Elders in Alberta. In 1997, Gabe Kakeeway created the HIV/AIDS Teaching Turtle after consulting with Elders in Treaty #3 area (NW ONT), which added ecological, social, and animistic elements. In 2001, Barbara Bruce (Manitoba) and Marion Gracey created the Four Doorways Teaching Turtle which added harm reduction elements (McLeod, 2006). In 2018, Albert McLeod (Manitoba) created the framework “Two-Eyed Seeing Applied to STBBI Terminology,” which aligned disease prevention and control terminology with ceremonial practice. This history clearly illustrates the Indigenous depth, strength and response to reframing initiatives in this region to eliminate HIV/HCV/STBBIs inequities.

To honour this tradition, it is our aim is to give this traditional knowledge a home in the Waniska ᐊᐧᓂᐢᑲ – Indigenous Centre on HIV/HCV/STBBI Inequities. These innovative Indigenous community leaders demonstrated the value of Elders and Knowledge Holders, who through action and sharing, show that place, history and social context matters in investigating and developing HIV/HCV/STBBI interventions for Indigenous communities. In their honour, we aim to inspire innovative Indigenous land- and community-based research, which bridges knowledges and action across and between Indigenous groups, academics, care providers and trainees who are the next generation of scholars and practitioners. It is with this focus that we will also honour and advance the Calls to Action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools and will demonstrate in action our legal obligation (via TRC Acts, Public Health Acts) to address inequities in HIV/HCV/STBBI research, training and service delivery.

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