Tag Archives: Working It Out Together

Recap: Working it Out Together – Taking Control of Health

Season three’s premiere episode of Working it Out Together on APTN features co-creator/host Waneek Horn-Miller and Kahnawa:ke’s Heath Promotion Consultant Alex McComber as they tackle the effects of colonization and structural racism on the eating habits of First Nations people in Canada today. Currently it is estimated that 25% of people living on reserve have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which is more than double the rate of the general population of Canada. However Kanawa:ke has statistically remained constant at 12%.

We learn in this installment that obesity and diabetes can be directly linked to colonization. After the Canadian government limited the availability of traditional foods,  food was used as an instrument of control that coerced Indigenous people across Canada onto reserves. This act instantly meant that traditional, active self-sufficient ways were lost and life became sedentary and dependent. The foods that had been the norm were no longer. The government supplied communities with alternatives that were significantly higher in saturated fat, salt, sugar, and alcohol. This drastic dietary change further hampered the health and well-being of Indigenous populations across Canada.

The effects of the Indian Residential School compounded this problem by creating generations of young people with unhealthy relationships with food. Chronic hunger was the norm at residential schools, and the food that was supplied to students was consistently substandard in quality and nutritional value. Coupled with this unhealthy relationship with food that persists today is the lack of healthy food choices available to lower income families across Canada. Fresh and healthy foods with short shelf lives are always the more expensive choice; a price point often out of reach for lower income families struggling to feed their families. All of these factors have created a recipe for endemic health crises across Canadian communities.

Alex McComber believes the trauma of losing land, losing culture, and the horrors of the residential school system are to blame for the health crises that today’s Indigenous people experience.  To reverse this health crisis, healing from generations of traumas must first occur. Additionally, there is a strong focus on educating the youth of Kahnawa:ke about healthy lifestyles and choices, with the hope that it encourages family and community involvement as a whole.

To add a personal face to this crisis, we follow the story of Konwenni Jacobs, an active mother of two from Kahnawa:ke who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We experience her journey with her partner Brian Williams — recently diagnosed as pre-diabetic — as they struggle to improve their well-being, making healthy food choices and adhering to a stricter fitness regime.

This premiere episode drives home the fact that the ability to choose healthy foods in Canada has become a political issue, not just for Indigenous communities but for any community experiencing economic hardships.  However, McComber expands on this to remind us that the foods that we place in our bodies are not just fuel but medicine; everything we ingest is medicine for our bodies.

Season three’s premiere episode also coincides with today’s launch of the show’s companion online magazine Working It Out Together.




Season 3 of Working It Out Together debuts May 31 on APTN

From a media release:

Working It Out Together returns to APTN for Season 3 with inspirational stories of Indigenous men and women who are at the forefront of a movement for positive change. Starting May 31, the half-hour show airs every Tuesday on APTN East and APTN HD at 10:30 p.m. ET, and on APTN w at 10:30 p.m. MT, and starting June 4, every Saturday on APTN n at 12:00 p.m. CT. It’s a 13-part documentary series, hosted by Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller, that goes deep into the colonial roots of the profound disparities facing Indigenous communities today; while celebrating a new face of Indigenous Canada – bold, confident and healthy, moving forward with the strength of tradition, family and community.

For Indigenous People, “Mino Bimaadziwin” – the “good life” – is embedded in traditional ways. Colonization tried to destroy this holistic approach to health, but strong family bonds and connections to tradition helped Indigenous communities to survive. Working It Out Together features stories of dance and art as healing practices, the revival of harvesting traditional food, the role of supportive communities in overcoming trauma and more.

Through engaging personal stories, sharp analysis and insightful commentary from honoured knowledge keepers, Working It Out Together, Season 3 goes beyond individual blame for health problems to celebrate strength and resilience. Inuit teachers educating their way and Mohawk midwives bringing birth back home are among the dynamic stories that highlight the “decolonization” of Indigenous bodies, minds and nations taking place beyond the headlines.

The series is accompanied by a digital magazine that celebrates remarkable Indigenous voices and talent. Acclaimed artists, filmmakers, scholars, athletes, activists, knowledge keepers and, of course, Waneek Horn-Miller, all join this virtual talking circle, shining the spotlight on what’s real and what’s next. WIOT Magazine is political, artful, poignant and funny. It’s a space to watch films by notable directors Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Shane Belcourt; explore works by award-winning visual artists Kent Monkman and Duane Linklater; read the words of renowned trailblazers Joseph Boyden and Pamela Palmater; and listen to inspiring audio accounts of residential school survivors and director of The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Ry Moran. WIOT Magazine is reconciliation in action. Most importantly, it shows the varied nuances of Indigenous People in Canada, past and present. And that’s something to celebrate.

Contributors to both the website and the television show include: James Jones, an Edmonton dancer from A Tribe Called Red who hosts powwow fit classes across Canada; Cindy Blackstock, President of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, in Ottawa; Wayne Rabbitskin, a healer and counsellor who focuses on addictions and violence against women from Oujé-Bougoumou, QC; and Rene Meshake, an Anishinaabe Elder based in Guelph, whose art preserves the traditions of his Native culture.