CGSHE commemorates Indigenous History Month

June 13, 2023   |   Blog, News

Written by Shivangi Sikri

June is Indigenous History Month in Canada, and to mark the occasion, CGSHE is highlighting research that uplifts Indigenous Peoples and communities on our blog. Today and every day, the Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity works to amplify Indigenous voices.

In 2021, we launched the CGSHE Spotlight Series: Decolonizing Research & Practice under the leadership of CGSHE’s Director of Indigenous Research, Dr. Brittany Bingham. This series of live educational webinars features Indigenous thought leaders with the goal of fostering a circle of dialogue and learnings on decolonizing gender and sexual health research.

In this post, we’re spotlighting some of our past speakers: Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle, Jessy Dame and Miranda Kelly. They address a wide range of topical issues such as the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in incarceration, the erasure of Two-Spirit folks in data collection, and the ongoing colonization of childbirth. All past Spotlight Series talks are available on CGSHE’s YouTube channel.

From Incarceration to Land-Based Learning: Kijibashik, KEEP2 & Akiikaa
by Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle

Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle is an Algonquin woman from Timiskaming First Nation. She is an Assistant Professor, Indigenous Health Lead and Associate Director at the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

In November 2022, Dr. Mashford-Pringle joined us to present on her work with previously incarcerated Indigenous moms, men, women and Two-Spirit peoples, through the research projects: Kijibashik and KEEP2. She outlined the overrepresentation of Indigenous women and peoples in incarceration, emphasizing the need for more research to inform supports for these groups.

Looking at the number of women incarcerated in Canada over the past ten years, she notes that Indigenous women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population. Meanwhile, the number of incarcerated non-Indigenous women has been declining over the past few years.

Research also shows that Indigenous women lose six to nine times more years of life to incarceration than non-Indigenous women. Dr. Mashford-Pringle remarks that this is not owing to a difference in behaviour between the two groups but a difference in treatment by the system.


I, as an Indigenous woman, did not make myself vulnerable. The systems which I operate in made me vulnerable.

– Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle

Upon a literature review, she discovered that most research on the health of people experiencing incarceration in Canada focused on men. Very little is known about incarceration’s impact on Indigenous women’s and mothers’ health and wellbeing. This knowledge gap resulted in the birth of the research project, Kijibashik.

Kijibashik is an ongoing study that seeks to examine the impact of incarceration on the wellbeing of Indigenous mothers, mother figures and Two-Spirit parents. The research aims to identify the unique needs of this population and collaborate with Indigenous organisations to inform services that can assist their post-incarceration transition into the community.

To learn more about Kijibashik’s findings, the extended project KEEP2 and the role that Indigenous ways of knowing play in the process of healing, watch Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle’s presentation.

Two-Spirit Data Collection: How Can We Challenge the History of Erasure?
by Jessy Dame

Jessy Dame is Two-Spirit, Métis and a Registered Nurse. Jessy’s family is from Treaty 1 and 2 territory, known today as Winnipeg and St. Rose-du-lac. Jessy has worked within neonatal and postnatal health, and currently works with a queer sexual health clinic in downtown Vancouver and as a Two-Spirit Program Manager at the Community-Based Research Centre.

In May 2022, Jessy Dame joined us to present on the erasure of Two-Spirit folks in data collection. He addressed how internal and systemic binaries are forced upon the research process, limiting or eliminating participants who do not fit within those societal norms.

He begins his presentation in a way that is accessible to anyone who may not be familiar with the term, Two-Spirit, as he unpacks the concepts of gender and sexuality, binaries and decolonization. He outlines the history of Two-Spirit peoples from before contact to present, tracing their roles in Indigenous communities and the impact of residential schools and ongoing colonization on their lives.

Addressing the norms of present-day research practices, Jessy Dame observes that Two-Spirit folks are often absorbed into the LGBTQ+ acronym and collapsed with non-Indigenous gender and sexuality minority populations for the purpose of data analysis. This approach may be taken in an attempt to protect against the threat of identification if Two-Spirit samples are deemed too small. However, this decision reinforces the problematic practice of conflating and equating Two-Spirit peoples with non-Indigenous identities. He argues that this results in a complete erasure of the unique, complex and beautiful experiences of Two-Spirit, Indigiqueer and trans Indigenous Peoples.

Jessy Dame identifies another problematic practice in the current state of research where there is an inclusion of Two-Spirit folks in the research question or title but these participants were excluded from the data because they were either not reported on or the sample was deemed too small. He notes that research often prioritizes the majority group of a sample over smaller groups of people who are experiencing higher rates of harm.


We need to start looking at the smaller groups of people, at Two-Spirit folks specifically, creating culturally tailored resources so that we feel seen and are included in data research. Not just in the title but actually in the documents.

– Jessy Dame

To learn more about the limitations of inaccurate sex and gendered language, the Meet the Methods series, and respectful ways to recruit Two-Spirit participants in health research, watch Jessy Dame’s presentation.

Decolonizing Indigenous Birth Work and Reproductive Health
by Miranda Kelly (Tilyen)

Miranda Kelly (Tilyen) is of Stό:lō and mixed settler ancestry. She was raised in her home community, Soowahlie First Nation, near Chilliwack, B.C. and has kinship ties to Cowichan, Snuneymuxw, and Sumas First Nations. She is the Director of Indigenous Women & Family Health at Vancouver Coastal Health and has previously served as a full spectrum doula with the Ekw’i7tl Indigenous doula collective.

In June 2021, Miranda Kelly joined us to present on the ongoing colonization of childbirth. As a mother and doula, she shared reflections from her lived experiences. She outlined approaches to decolonizing birth, how to make space for Indigenous birth workers, and ways to support birth as a site of Indigenous resurgence and intergenerational healing.

She traces a timeline of colonization from the Indian Act to the Sexual Sterilization Act to present day, explaining how the colonial system separates Indigenous Peoples from their lands and Indigenous children from their families. She illustrates how racist policies have contributed to the disproportionately high rates of maternal and infant mortality among First Nations.

Miranda Kelly’s research draws attention to an evacuation policy in Canada that requires Indigenous folks who are pregnant to leave their community on reserve about a month before their due date to travel to a larger city to give birth. This makes it much harder to have the support of their family and feel a sense of home during this time. Research shows that the distance someone has to travel to birth is associated with increased rates of adverse perinatal outcomes. Over the pandemic, the stress of travel and feeling of isolation experienced by Indigenous pregnant folks was exacerbated.


If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that when there is a sense of urgency we can rapidly respond with policy and practice change. We need to treat racism in the health care system and the ongoing colonization of birth with the same sense of urgency. We need this change now.

– Miranda Kelly

To learn more about racist policies and attitudes in the health care system, impacts of the pandemic on Indigenous wellbeing, and advice in finding one’s individual role in the practice of decolonization, watch Miranda Kelly’s presentation.


To hear about future CGSHE Spotlight Series talks, you can sign up for the CGSHE newsletter. For more resources and events related to Indigenous History Month, please see UBC Events.