Kaaahsinnooniksi Ót aistamátstohkssin: A Model for Developing Culturally Grounded
Centers for Indigenous Women & Girls
Kaaahsinnooniksi Ót aistamátstohkssin aims to create a best practice model and toolkit for developing culturally-grounded centers for Indigenous women and girls, that support revitalization of traditional leadership roles. Kaaahsinnooniksi Ót aistamátstohkssin will be conducted in territory belonging to the Blackfoot Confederacy (areas in southern Alberta and northern Montana), and will be grounded in Blackfoot communities and culture, with the aim of developing a blueprint for revitalizing Blackfoot women and girls’ traditional forms of leadership. However, this blueprint will be relevant to other Indigenous nations and communities, as the adjoining toolkit will provide a self-reflexive path for developing such centers grounded in their own culture and community needs.
Historically Blackfoot people belonged to a matriarchal society, and often our grandmothers held extensive and knowledge that guided our people. This project aims to bring attention to those stories and ways of existence of our Kaaahsinnooniksi (Grandparents). Kaaahsinnooniksi Ót aistamátstohkssin means “the teachings of our grandparents”. Kaaahsinnooniksi is a collective term for grandparents in a family structure sense and more often describes those individuals two generations before us. Our grandparents are a part of the alliances from which knowing, and knowledge are obtained and often offer guidance throughout our lifespan. Their teachings are integral to traditional ways of knowing and are vital to establishing the initial and essential steps in achieving independence that is self-sufficient and balanced. The ancient teachings from our grandparents are essential
in healing and regenerating our ways of knowing among Indigenous women and girls
and are fundamental to creating this model.
This model will be of use to front-line service providers, tribal governments, community organizers, healthcare programming, and educational institutions who are invested in creating effective resources that heal, protect, and empower Indigenous women and girls. In this way, the ultimate goal of Kaaahsinnooniksi Ót aistamátstohkssin is to
create a clear path for Indigenous communities to build centers that are effective in their work to uplift women and girls, and uniquely grounded in their own cultural lifeways and teachings.
Kaaahsinnooniksi Ót aistamátstohkssin takes a mixed methods approach, combining culturally relevant forms of knowledge transfer, analysis of data on violence against Indigenous women and girls within the study region, and interviews and talking circles with elders, community members, and service providers, to gain knowledge of what
currently existing services work, where gaps in service are, and how an empowering space for women and girls in the community might look if it were to be designed with local Indigenous cultural frameworks in mind. These frameworks include land-based and community-based teachings from the Research Fellow’s family and tribal
communities and will be developed with consistent guidance from community elders
throughout the research process.
ABOUT THE RESEARCHER
Melissa Shouting is of Blackfoot (Kainai), Plains Cree, and Gros Ventre descent. She was raised by her family, collectively, in Southern Alberta among the Siksikatsitapi (Blackfoot people) from the Kainai Nation. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Public Health with a minor in Aboriginal Health at the University of Lethbridge. Her topics of interest include women’s health, harm reduction, and HIV/AIDS within Indigenous populations. She has extensive knowledge, and is continuously learning new concepts, on how historical factors have contributed to the current outcomes and determinants of health of Indigenous women and their communities. She aims to work within the health care sector as a program specialist and analyst, utilizing both Blackfoot and Western worldviews and techniques to encourage a holistic approach to overall health and well-being within Indigenous populations.