‘Kaua e rangiruatia te ha o te hoe: e kore to tatou waka e u ki uta’ – Do not lift the paddles out of unison, or our canoe will never reach the shore.
Our study tour to Alaska is providing many opportunities to build alliances and share learnings with one another. It is about sharing our heritage and ancestry or whakapapa. It is also about strengthening our unique mātauranga – our knowledge and experiences. On a personal note, my take tupuna- the stories from my ancestors – resonate with their stories and our worldviews have much in common. We know the intimate connection of our heritage with the mountains, rivers, lakes, and ancestry. Therefore, the connections that bind us as Indigenous communities is not poor socio-economic status or chronic disease. Our connections come through building our resilience toward family/whanau self-managing, living healthy lifestyles, and becoming economically secure.
During the Tour we will explore and learn lessons from how the Alaska Native health system has been transformed to be more responsive to the community’s needs and desires, location by location. It is a system that at its very core is ‘by Alaska Native people for Alaska Native people’. Four of us are travelling on this particular journey of discovery in Alaska. Alongside Mat and Jonathon, we are fortunate to have the insights and expertise of Pam Muth (30 years experience of clinical work in New Zealand, Alaska and Australia), and Mark Stracey (Director of Aboriginal Health in Victoria, Australia). There are valuable lessons to be learned, many of which will be directly applicable to the work in New Zealand and Australia.
Today, we traveled to a village accessible only by plane or boat and experienced how health care is delivered locally – tomorrow we’ll be at the sub-regional center that supports the surrounding villages and on Wednesday through Friday we’ll spend time at the tertiary centre that supports the entire Alaska Native health system statewide. Although we’re only on day 1 of our exploration, we have found an absolute commitment to share the knowledge between our three countries.
Blog post by Mataroria Lyndon, Jonathon Gray, Pam Muth and Mark Stracey.