Family is the Focus

Supporting and strengthening children, families and communities

Strengthening and improving the health and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, families and communities is a key priority of the NCCIH. As part of this effort, we have hosted a series of national gatherings on children and families, including Messages from the Heart: Caring for our Children (2009), With Dad: Strengthening the Circle of Care (2011), Sacred Space of Womanhood: Mothering across the Generations (2012), and Family is the Focus (2014). All four gatherings explored traditional and contemporary roles of Aboriginal children, parents and families and how they can be best supported.

The NCCIH is pleased to share the summary report and accompanying DVD from the final national gathering, Family is the Focus. Taking place on the traditional territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam Peoples in Vancouver, British Columbia from February 18-20, 2014, participants from across Canada were joined by speakers from New Zealand and the United States. Setting the tone for the three-day event, Albert Pooley, of the Hopi and Navajo Nations, stated, “There is nothing more important and precious than family. Nothing. As Native people, we believe that family is where we start.”

The family home was explained as a location of learning, joy, debate and safety. Esteemed elder, Maria Campbell, recalled her grandmother’s home as a sanctuary, “Nohkom’s house was always a sacred place. It was a place where we could go alone or together; that included parents and children. And we could be reminded in her house that there was lots of goodness in the world. We could be reminded that we were family and that no matter how terrible things got, if you came here, you would be okay because just by her presence, she reminded us that we were loved and that we could be better than we were if we just tried.”

Keynote speakers and panelists shared their experiences from the front-line, as youth, parents, grandparents, researchers, health professionals, and community leaders, organizers, educators, and advocates. Stories were exchanged about witnessing ceremony in education and education in ceremony; the ways in which Indigenous peoples and communities are reclaiming and expressing identity, culture and language; the deep value of intergenerational attachment and bonding; the intrinsic role of grandparents as the bearers of family narratives and histories; and the positive vision youth uphold for future generations.

Respected educator, Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, drew upon a traditional teaching as part of her final reflections on the gathering. She related the story about a character named Lady Louse, who tirelessly cleaned the community longhouse, only to become lost in the dust of her work. Dr. Archibald provided some takeaways from this story which circled back to bringing focus to the family: that Aboriginal people, families and communities have been lost in the dust that is the history of colonialism; that no one person can work in isolation from others, including families and communities; and that eventually dust settles and brings new opportunities to move forward.

Participants used the gathering as a space to collectively develop a consensus statement on the continued support and strengthening of the health and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis families and communities.



We commit to solutions, building upon what is currently in place or is working in our families and communities.

We commit to advocacy, championing the needs identified by our people at the individual, family, community and nation levels.

We commit to communicating effectively and efficiently across families, communities, sectors and systems.

We commit to freely sharing our gifts, celebrating who we are, and where we are from.

We commit to continuous improvement, measuring the impact our work has on the health, social and cultural outcomes of our children.

We commit to healthy behaviours, creating happy and safe homes for our children.

We commit to inclusive practices that are welcoming to all and rooted in the family.

We commit to advancing our rich and vibrant cultures on all fronts.

We commit to lifelong learning embracing each opportunity as a teachable moment.

We commit to establishing services where they are needed ensuring that where a child lives doesn’t limit the services they receive.

We believe that every family is a child development centre.

We accept the responsibility for our children.

We believe in our greatness.

This is our truth.



This summary report is accompanied by a video compilation of the gathering. This DVD, which you can also watch on-line, showcases footage from the keynote and panel discussions, as well as messages brought forth by participants.

With our thanks to:

Elder Mary Charles, of the Musqueam First Nation, who opened the gathering and warmly welcomed participants to the traditional territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam peoples.

Mr. Dan George, of Four Directions Management Services, who with great insight and respect, facilitated the event.

Ms. Colleen Stephenson, a graphic artist who visually captured in real time the words and thoughts of speakers and participants in colourful artwork.

The crew of Big Soul Productions, who filmed the gathering and put much care into producing the DVD "Family is the Focus".

The NCCIH would also like to acknowledge and thank our keynote speakers and all panelists for sharing their time, experience, insights and wisdom.

This event has been made possible through a financial contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.