Bringing together the ‘brilliance of the elders’ with Western medicine

Nicole Redvers, naturopathic doctor and chair of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation board, is the author of The Science of the Sacred. Emelie Peacock photo
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Nicole Redvers says Western medicine is only just catching up what Indigenous healing systems have known forever.

“We’re just using different words for a lot of the same things,” says Redvers, who is a naturopathic doctor and co-founder of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation. “To be honest its the only reason why I’m here today, because my ancestors knew the knowledge of the land and were able to keep themselves well, they were able to birth themselves, they were able to know which medicines to use.”

Nicole Redvers at Yellowknife’s urban Indigenous on the land healing camp. Emelie Peacock photo

Redvers says this knowledge has historically been seen as primitive, lagging behind Western medicine. Indigenous stories have only begun to be told by Indigenous authors in the past ten years, she adds. “So I felt that there was a huge gap in the voice out there, but also recognizing the minimization of our elders knowledge gathered over thousands of years in many places of the world. And being able to showcase that brilliance, of how scientific they actually are.”

Redvers, a member of the Deninu K’ue First Nation, travelled the world and learned about Indigenous health systems in her training as a naturopathic doctor. She has since returned to the North, working to open an urban on the land healing camp which celebrated its one year anniversary Wednesday.

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Redvers is now sharing these teachings in her first book, The Science of the Sacred. She will be in Hay River this weekend to launch the book where she had her first job stacking other author’s works – the Hay River Public Library.

In Science of the Sacred, Redvers interweaves Western medical concepts with Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and Indigenous healing systems from around the world. “It’s a systems-based journey, bridging scientific modern principles with Indigenous medicine systems around the world, with a purpose of helping people recognize that we don’t have to give up our histories of wellness and knowledge in our quest for being well in our world.”

She says knowing and understanding the past and bridging these gaps is something she has been has been doing in her own life, as Canada’s only Dene naturopathic doctor and leader in the Indigenous health movement in the North.

Recognizing the ‘brilliance of the elders’, to whom her boom is dedicated, is urgent for Redvers. The elders who hold this knowledge will not be here in the next 20 or 30 years, she says, a generation who were born on the sea ice and on the land. “That knowledge is so unique and that viewpoint on life is so unique, and it pains me to think we might lose that for our children and grandchildren. And it creates a responsibility for people my age and younger to ensure that doesn’t happen. It’s a huge responsibility.”

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And this knowledge is crucial, Redvers adds, for tackling the very urgent realities of climate change and mental health crises facing Northern communities.

She hopes the book will find its way into the hands of Indigenous scholars and young people going through the education stream, just as Redvers came into contact with three texts on Eastern philosophy as a young person, greatly influencing her path. “My hope would be that they feel a connection, knowing that it is possible to learn two systems and be strong with them and it is possible to remember who you are and not have to forego who you are based on the science or the social bits that you’re learning through your programs or universities as scholars as you go forth.”

The Science of the Sacred will launch Saturday, April 27th at 6:30 p.m. at the Hay River Library. A launch at the Yellowknife Public Library is set for May 11th at 3 p.m.

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