Letsemot, "Togetherness": Exploring How Connection to Land, Water, and Territory Influences Health and Wellness with First Nations Knowledge Keepers and Youth in the Fraser Salish Region of British Columbia
International Journal of Indigenous Health
Connection to land has been identified as a central determinant of the health and well-being of First Nations in Canada. The wholistic, interconnected, spiritual, and sacred relationship that many Indigenous Peoples have with the land is an integral part of strengthening physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health and well-being. However, there has been little empirical evidence on how to assess, measure, and report on connection to land for First Nations Peoples. Using a Two- Eyed Seeing
... a Two- Eyed Seeing approach, this study explores what connection to land, water, and territory means for health and wellness for First Nations in the Fraser Salish region in the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada. Data were collected through a sharing circle with five First Nations Knowledge Keepers and five youth from Stó:lō communities as part of a land-based gathering in Stó:lō territory. Three themes were identified: (a) "the spirits of the land, water, and territory are within us": the intersection of cultural identity, spirituality, ancestral knowledge, and health and well-being; (b) letsemot, "togetherness": relationality; and (c) disruptions and new ways of living. For Stó:lō Peoples, connection to the land is an integral component of health and well-being. Connection to land was found to strongly influence physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects of health while also intersecting with Stó:lō cultural identity, spirituality, ancestral knowledge, and ways of living. The findings can be used to inform the development of an indicator for connection to land, water, and territory as a measurement of ecological wellness for the First Nations Population Health and Wellness Agenda in BC.