Research Queen's University Canada

Heather Castleden

Heather Castleden

Applying Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to research involving social and environmental justice and health equity: this research aims to create healthier relationships between Indigenous peoples and Settler (non-Indigenous) Canadians by advancing recognition, responsibility and reconciliation in community-driven and participatory ways.

[Dr. Heather Castleden]
Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relationships for Health, Environments, and Communities
Tier 2

The six “Rs” for Healing Our Relationships with Each Other and the Land, Water, and Air Around Us

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Although we are making strides in lessening the impact humans have on the Earth, western science can neither eliminate climate change impacts nor enable us to fully adapt to this new normal. As Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments, and Communities, Dr. Heather Castleden is looking to other knowledge systems to help us mend the damage we have done.

For example, Indigenous peoples have adapted to changes in their territories for thousands of years. Indigenous knowledge systems provide a deep understanding of how humans and the natural world are interconnected and interdependent. While this link between healthy lands and healthy people is coming to light in western science, it has been known, embodied, and taught in Indigenous contexts for hundreds of generations.

Castleden and her research teams are turning to Indigenous knowledge-holders for guidance on how to ask the right questions with respect to researching human health and environmental issues. The challenge is to bring these complementary, but different, knowledge systems together.

Were it not for enduring colonial structures and relationships between Indigenous and settler peoples in Canada, this challenge might be easily overcome. So, Castleden is turning to the six “Rs”—respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility, relationality, and reconciliation—for solutions. By applying them in collaborative and participatory research, she aims to develop theories for training the next generation. Her aim is to reconcile our relationships with each other as well as with the land, water, and air that sustain us.