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Video a voice for marginalized aboriginal women.

SASKATOON

Aboriginal women who struggle with drug abuse, addictions and problems with the justice system are the subject of a recently released video "From Stilettos to Moccasins".

The video portrays the importance of the healing journey and draws attention to the issues of battling addictions and alleviating the effects of trauma and violence that Aboriginal women have been confronted with in their communities.

University of Saskatchewan Research Chair on Substance Abuse, Colleen Dell, said the strong message and impact of the music video came from the voices and experiences of researchers, Aboriginal Elders, treatment providers, government representatives and women who lived through those experiences.

"Through the song and video, we hope that the strength, resolve and determination of the women who shared their stories touches the hearts and lives of those who view it," Dell said. "Especially those currently struggling with addictions in their own lives." Dell added that those involved in the project gave a lot of authenticity in determining how to make the most impact with the material gathered.

The song used for the music video was composed by singer/ songwriter Violet Naytowhow, a Woodland Cree from Prince Albert.

The video was part of a research project undertaken by the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation (NNAPF) and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA). It examines the role of identity and stigma in the healing journeys of criminalized Aboriginal women in treatment for addictions.

The music video was also presented at a national CCSA conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during National Addictions Awareness Week in November. The research team is using it to develop discussion guides for workshops at addiction treatment centres across Canada.

The research team worked with Saskatchewan-based company, Mae Star Production, to produce the music video. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health, the video represents the voices of more than 100 Aboriginal women in treatment for illicit drug use. It provides a unique "step outside the box" approach from typical academic research findings to a more abstract and visual use of the research materials, which portrays through art, a way to share hope and inspiration for Aboriginal women dealing with addictions.

Dell told Sage that many of the participants found the voices of Aboriginal women have been generally silenced in society. "The women made it really clear to us that they wanted others to learn from what they have gone through in their lives," she said. "And so we took seriously this responsibility we were given."

A goal of the research team was putting forward a strong commitment to having the voices of these Aboriginal women heard, who shared so amiably their lived experiences with the research team. Dell also points out that the music video has so far been met with much appreciation and interest by the public.

The research team and the participants hope the video will offer inspiration in the lives of individuals, their clients, family members and the community as a whole, Dell said.

"Being part of a project that helps to share the voices of experience from Aboriginal women's lives is nothing short of inspirational," said Dell. "A key message of this video, in the end, is that people care."

Right now a workshop is in the works to go along with the video, which will address the role of identity and stigma in criminalized Aboriginal women's healing from illicit substance abuse. This workshop will be available to treatment providers, at no cost, to deliver in residential and community programs. The video can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=1QRb8wA2iHs.

For further information about the project go to http:// www.addictionresearchchair.com/ creating-knowledge/national/ cihr-research-project, or contact Dell at (306) 966-5912.

The music video "From Stilettos to Moccasins" carries an empowering and strong message about Aboriginal women and is truly an important mechanism to recognize the difficulties and adversity that Aboriginal women face in society. As well, it looks at the different ways that are helping them eventually find a way out.

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BY ROY POGORZELSKI

Sage Writer
COPYRIGHT 2009 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:HEALTH
Author:Pogorzelski, Roy
Publication:Saskatechewan Sage
Date:Dec 1, 2009
Words:690
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