Pikangikum Health Authority and Beringia Community Planning honoured with National Award for Innovative Aboriginal Health Planning

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Pikangikum Health Authority and Beringia Community Planning honoured with National Award for Innovative Aboriginal Health Planning

by mmnationtalk on August 15, 20143041 Views

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August 15, 2014

Pikangikum Health Authority and Beringia Community Planning
honoured with National Award for Innovative Aboriginal Health Planning
Ontario First Nation engages its community on a pathway to healing through community planning

Pikangikum, ON: Pikangikum First Nation’s health planning process is an inspiring example of a community overcoming many challenges to work at healing and building a stronger future. Under the leadership of the Pikangikum Health Authority (PHA) and planning support from Beringia Community Planning Inc. Pikangikum has completed an innovative and comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) entitled “Working It Out Together: Pikangikum First Nation’s Community Health Needs Assessment”. The Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) presented the Award of Planning Excellence for Aboriginal Planning and Development at its National Conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick on July 10, 2014. CIP is a national planning organization representing over 7000 registered planners across Canada.

In April 2012, Maclean’s magazine described Pikangikum as “the suicide capital of the world.” It is not hard to imagine how discouraging and disempowering this portrayal is for the community. Yana Sobiski, PHA Legal Advisor, reflects that “Pikangikum is a community that has long been the subject of “study” by various researchers, the media, and academics from outside of the community. The products of these “studies” have generally provided little benefit to Pikangikum… and have fuelled negative media attention about the community.” The CHNA is, premised on an engagement process that continues to give voice to the people of Pikangikum, empowering Pikangikum community members to not only name  community struggles, but to build-up the necessary data to develop workable solutions to the critical health and social issues facing the community. 

What is significant about this health assessment is that it originated with the First Nation, was driven by the First Nation and is owned by the First Nation. As Project Manager Samson Keeper said, “Finally we will be in the driver’s seatIt’s time that we write our own story for ourselves”. This CHNA sets a high standard and offers a fresh approach to Aboriginal community-based health planning and breaks new ground by showing how local capacity building, learning by doing, widespread participation, and empowerment can create a path to community health and healing.

To see community members, leadership and staff come together and engage in sharing and dialogue about health and healing is an incredibly powerful step for Pikangikum. PHA Executive Director Billy Joe Strang comments that “Community members have been able to create and participate in a community-based process of discovering, reclaiming, and re-telling our community’s story. They have come out by the hundreds, including our Elders and our Youth, to share their hopes and dreams for Pikangikum’s health and well-being.”

Jeff Cook, Principal of Beringia Planning, emphasizes that “this planning process and ensuing report are ground-breaking. To see community members, Elders, Youth, staff and Leadership come together is an incredibly powerful step for Pikangikum. This planning story has much to teach planners working with First Nations about building local capacity, using a strengths-based approach, the role of planning in community healing, and the importance of reclaiming cultural identity and pride due to historical circumstances.”

Doctor Anthon Meyer, Founder of Amdocs, who practiced in Pikangikum for over 5 years, sees the results of this process as resounding larger than just for Pikangikum. He comments that “It is my belief that this project will not only lead to unprecedented and critically needed change within the community of Pikangikum, but will also leave a permanent impact on the governance of the whole region of Northern Ontario. To observe how Pikangikum members as a People became actively involved was not only impressive, it was astounding.”

About Pikangikum First Nation: We are an Anishinaabe, Ojibway-speaking community of approximately 2,600 members in the Sioux Lookout District of Northwestern Ontario located approximately 100 kilometers northwest of Red Lake. “Pikangikum” is from the Ojibway word “Biikanjikamiing” that refers to how the Berens River flows into Pikangikum Lake on the east, how the lake spreads out from the river on either side, and how the River leaves the lake in the west across from where it comes in.

About the CHNA: This 9 phase, 18-month planning process used a holistic and participatory approach that focused on capacity building, honouring strengths, community control, cultural relevance and integration. The outcomes of this community engagement process included local ownership of the process, confidence and belonging, relationship building and healing support, local planning capacity, celebration of culture, recognition and applicability of traditional knowledge and clarity of needs to direct action priorities. Through 22 community workshops, 64 interviews and 38 meetings, we met 574 participants from the community who identified 23 health needs and 117 sub-needs. These needs were ranked with the help of a participatory community ranking process that considered the popularity, urgency and strategic advantage of addressing each need. The results are represented with energy circles and lines inspired by Anishinaabe art. The resulting award winning report is a reflection of the hard work put in by community members to make their health planning a priority. This CHNA is the supporting document now guiding the completion of PFN’s Comprehensive Community Health Plan.

For more information contact:

Billy Joe Strang, Executive Director, Pikangikum Health Authority at 807-773-1078 or [email protected]


Jeff Cook, Principal, Beringia Community Planning Inc. at 604-626-9165 or [email protected]


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