Last month, the Two-Spirit Team at CBRC launched the Medicine Bundle Project, a research project made by and for Two-Spirit, queer and trans Indigenous communities with the goal of creating alternate pathways to testing and sexual health resources in British Colombia.
As part of the pilot program, the Two-Spirit Team engaged nine Trusted Messengers to help deliver Indigenous and western sexual health resources, tools and information to Two-Spirit and Indigenous community members. As part of National Indigenous Peoples Day, we asked several Trusted Messengers to share what it means to be doing this work.
Siyothlewot / Brooke Bobb-Reid
Trusted Messenger, Fraser Salish
“It is an honor to be a part of the Two-Spirit Team. When I came across this opportunity to learn and grow in health, healing, education, and awareness–and to walk alongside Two-Spirit people on Turtle Island within this capacity–I was in awe. What a passionate group of strong people with the same vision, weaved with compassion. As a birth worker and community champion, I feel being a Trusted Messenger is a part of my calling as an Indigenous woman. As Indigenous people, we have faced insurmountable trauma, stigma, and hardship, forced onto silence for too long. The Medicine Bundle Project allow us to stand up and raise our voice in a good way, as we slowly grip on to the way of life that has always been a part of who we are as Xwèlmexw.
“This work is incredibly important because it blends both traditional and modern ways of healing to foster unity and togetherness and offers Indigenous people the autonomy to make informed decisions in confidence for themselves and a message to share with their loved ones. My hope for the Medicine Bundle Project that it will challenge the system and bridge the gap by decreasing shame, stigma, and fear, and foster growth and sustainability in sexual health practices, awareness, and services for our population through truth and healing.”
Gisbuutwada (Killer Whale Clan), Gitxaala Nation
Irish and French settler ancestry
Trusted Messenger, Northern Region
“Being a Trusted Messenger has been so meaningful to me. The training we went through for the position emphasized a cultural element I had not anticipated when I decided to apply. To know that I am responsible for a Medicine Bundle that will support my Indigenous family members far and wide helps me connect to my true essence as an Indigenous person in a colonial country that has sought to rob us of our essence as Indigenous Peoples of these lands. I take great pride in my role and know that the Medicine Bundle will provide a much-needed alternative to understanding our sexual health than what is being offered through mainstream medical services. I hope this project can really open the doors for us to return to our own understandings of our sexuality as Indigenous Peoples. Where we are now from where we were seems like such a gigantic chasm filled with shame, misinformation, and demonization. We have the chance to celebrate the openness of our traditional cultures in accepting members of our Nations and tribes as they were and regardless of how or who they chose to be intimate with.”
Trusted Messenger, Island Region
“Being involved in this work, as a Trusted Messenger for the Two-Spirit Team’s Medicine Bundle Project, has been a great honour. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn so much while doing important work. This project is important because it is showing that an Indigenous-led approach to health works better for Indigenous folks. I think that an Indigenist approach is best to work toward decolonizing health care and increasing health equity in Canada. I feel that my role is valuable, and I can witness the impact we are having as a team of Messengers. Connecting with organizations and individuals interested in the Medicine Bundle Project makes me feel happy that we are helping community members access important and culturally safe sexual health resources. Looking to the future, I hope to see this project expand nationally to reach more individuals and set an example for other Indigenous-led research initiatives and approaches to health care.”
Nehiyo and European ancestry
Trusted Messenger, Island Health
“Being a part of the Medicine Bundle Project as a Trusted Messenger has brought together my personal and professional life in a very meaningful way. I was also a part of the Two-Spirit Guidance Committee who came up with the idea, and when I now pull out a Two-Spirit Medicine Bundle I’m so proud of what we’ve done. I’ve had my own Medicine Bundle for years, filled with meaningful items like smudge medicines and cloth that has been given to me by a friend. I love that our Two-Spirit Medicine Bundle takes the traditional ways and brings them into the present by including sexual health supplies. This is important because the colonial system shamed sex, created the gender binary, and disrupted the ways Indigenous people do things. It has also led to Indigenous people becoming disproportionately impacted by HIV. It’s really important for Indigenous folks to be provided with HIV self-tests and DBS tests so that they don’t have to encounter racism in the health care system, or experience ongoing barriers to testing. I hope that this pilot project is successful so that we may be able to bring this program to Indigenous folks across Turtle Island, as well as to those under 18, so that we can normalize testing so that it becomes another part of self-care. I want us as Two-Spirit people to reclaim our traditional roles, know our status, and live together in a healthy, thriving community, where everybody knows their status and it’s no big deal.”
Trusted Messenger, Vancouver Coastal Region
“About a year after my high school graduation, I had an HIV+ diagnosis. If I were to have had something like this Medicine Bundle to exist in my life, offering some education and cultural de-stigmatization about HIV and sexual health, I would have ultimately been in a much better place to deal with the mental and emotional effects caused by that diagnosis. As a Messenger, one of my earliest priorities was getting in contact with Indigenous Educators in High Schools. (Even though I know full well that a lot of people graduating from high schools are not 18 yet, and unfortunately ineligible to order a bundle). High school graduation would have been the most perfect time for me to receive such a bundle, so I wanted to give some youth that opportunity instead.”
To contact the Trusted Messengers, please write to [email protected].