At Pathways, we use The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples definition of wellness which is, “Aboriginal concepts of health and healings start from the position that all elements of life and living are interdependent.  By extension, well-being flows from balance and harmony among all elements of personal and collective life.” 

We have recently set out to determine how engaging with culture influences health and wellness.  The first step on this journey was to conduct a review of the academic literature around the search question: “does Aboriginal cultural engagement improve wellness?”

The results from our review showed that engaging in one’s own Aboriginal culture is associated with improved wellness across a wide range of outcomes. Engagement with cultural activities, ceremony, and language preservation, has been shown to be protective against youth suicide, illicit and prescription drug abuse, diabetes, risky alcohol consumption, and involvement in the criminal justice system.  Those actively engaging with their culture were also more likely to self-report good health.

What is missing in the literature is how and why cultural engagement has a positive impact on wellness.  Difficult questions to answer!!  Our next steps will be consulting with Elders and community members to gain deeper understanding on these tough questions.

Through our Miskanawah resources, Pathways strives to create more opportunities for our families and all Calgarians to connect with culture and ceremony, with the vision that children, youth, and families thrive within a culturally responsive community.


Chandler, M. J., & Lalonde, C. (1998). Cultural continuity as a hedge against suicide in Canada's First Nations. Transcultural psychiatry, 35(2), 191-219.

Currie, C. L., Wild, T. C., Schopflocher, D. P., Laing, L., & Veugelers, P. (2013). Illicit and prescription drug problems among urban Aboriginal adults in Canada: the role of traditional culture in protection and resilience. Social Science & Medicine, 88, 1-9.

Dockery, A. M. (2010). Culture and wellbeing: The case of Indigenous Australians. Social Indicators Research, 99(2), 315-332.

Hallett, D., Chandler, M. J., & Lalonde, C. E. (2007). Aboriginal language knowledge and youth suicide. Cognitive Development, 22(3), 392-399.

Oster, R. T., Grier, A., Lightning, R., Mayan, M. J., & Toth, E. L. (2014). Cultural continuity, traditional Indigenous language, and diabetes in Alberta First Nations: a mixed methods study. International journal for equity in health, 13(1), 92.