awina kiyanaw

nitsiyihkâson: An Indigenous Perspective on Early Childhood Attachment

In 2011, IRM Research and Evaluation Inc. partnered with Alberta Innovates Health Solutions and University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills to develop a resource to promote culturally appropriate attachment and development among Indigenous (mainly nêhiyaw – Cree) families.

It became understood that promoting secure attachment between a child and his/her caregivers is crucial to ensuring positive mental health, and improving family well-being. Working collaboratively with the community of Saddle Lake, the process began by launching the project in traditional ceremony. Following this, a talking circle was held with Saddle Lake Elders to share their memories and understanding of child-rearing practices that promote attachment. Using their guidance, we produced the document “awina kiyanaw”, which focuses on Cree stories and teachings, for parents to share with their young children.

We then examined the cross-cultural applicability of these practices and produced a Resource Manual (published article) for service providers, comparing traditional ways-of-knowing with current neurobiological and epigenetic scientific understanding. We believe this helps those working with Indigenous families better understand their culture and appreciate the wisdom in its teachings. In this paper, we present those findings and their ramifications.