Naturopath from Northern Canada publishes book challenging assumptions around Indigenous medicine

Nicole Redvers shows off a copy of her new book, The Science of the Sacred. The book launches on Saturday at the Hay River public library. (Submitted by Nicole Redvers)
A Yellowknife, Northwest Territories naturopathic doctor and Indigenous health advocate is hoping to help build bridges between traditional and western medicine, launching her first book in the territory this past weekend.

Nicole Redvers’ book, The Science of the Sacred, aims to “challenge the assumptions” people have about Indigenous knowledge systems around the world, looking at Western medical practices through an Indigenous lens.

In many cases, Redvers says, Western medicine is just catching up to what Indigenous healers have known for centuries.

“That’s what the book is about… going back to our traditions.”

Nicole Redvers

Redvers says her intentions with the book are not to combine systems of traditional and Western medicine. Instead, she hopes her work can show how the systems can work alongside one another — and, when appropriate, give patients a choice.

“It’s really about bridge building,” she said. “It ensures that this pluralism, or this ability, to have different systems in place at the same time being recognized and being allowed.

Redvers at the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Camp in Yellowknife. Redvers’ book looks at intersections between Indigenous knowledge and western medicine. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

“Indigenous people should be able to choose the type of care that they receive, which they were not benefited to for the last hundred years.”

Redvers says that allows for a “real opportunity” for reconciliation, while acknowledging the history of traditional medicine can really make a difference in people’s lives.

“That was real motivation for doing this book,” she said. “Hopefully to create conversations about some of those tensions, some of those biases.

“But at the same time presenting a story in a way that can help to shed light in more of a Western language to help people understand those knowledge systems better.”

Back to her roots

Redvers, who is Dene, pointed out that she was not alone in writing her book. Over the course of its creation, she consulted with several elders, making sure that she was honouring traditional protocols and honouring the voices of those who have come before her.

Having elders review her book “was really imperative,” she said.

“They were very honest in making recommendations and changes in various places… I’m just so honoured to be able to be a part of that story and help continue the conversation.”

Redvers, centre, poses with Be’sha Blondin and Rassi Nashalik. The three are all organizers of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation. Redvers says she consulted with several elders while working on her book and had others review the manuscript. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

The Science of the Sacred was first launched in Hay River, N.W.T. on Saturday, April 27 at the town’s library. A second launch event will take place at the Yellowknife Public Library on May 11 at 3 p.m.

The Hay River launch has special significance to Redvers, who was born in the South Slave community.

“The Hay River public library was the site of my very first job, stacking books, when I was 12 and 13 years old,” she said. “I never thought that my book might be one of those books on that shelf.

“That’s what the book is about… going back to our traditions, and making sure that I honour the community that helped to raise me.”

Written by Garrett Hinchey, based on an interview by Loren McGinnis

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Gonorrhea, syphilis rates skyrocket in Canada’s Northwest Territories, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s elder care needs funding boost to meet Nordic standards: researcher, Yle News

Sweden: Fewer people suffering strokes in Sweden, Radio Sweden

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