Special Issue: Nīpawīstimatowin -“bearing witness for one another”


2020 Special Issue: 

Nīpawīstimatowin -“bearing witness for one another”





The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse is pleased to announce a special issue grounded in Canadian Indigenous discourse and worldviews, focusing on nursing’s role in truth and reconciliation, Indigenous health and well-being and the necessity to decolonize nursing in Canada. We warmly welcome three guest co-editors along with elder advisors.

Guest Editors: Dr. Lisa Bourque Bearskin, RN, PhD (Beaver Lake Cree Nation), Dr. Andrea Kennedy, RN, PhD (Settler & Métis ancestry), and Cheyenne Joseph, RN, MPH (Mi'kmaq Nation)

Elder Advisors: Madeleine Kétéskwēw Dion Stout, RN, MA, Hon. Doctorate (Kehewin First Nation & Tsawwassen First Nation) and Evelyn Voyageur, RN, PhD, Hon. Doctorate (Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw).



 Over 370 million Indigenous peoples worldwide remain the most marginalized group enduring significant health inequities that require culturally sovereign actions (WHO, 2019). Health inequities of Indigenous peoples are rooted in colonization and racism. Racism, including racial discrimination and systemic and structural racism are known to negatively impact Indigenous peoples’ health (Allen & Smylie, 2015). The National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (2019) accurately identified how genocide has been ongoing for generations. Indigenous families and communities are burdened with carrying and healing from these atrocities and historical trauma. “Genocide by a Million Paper Cuts” (Thorne, 2019) speaks to the importance of truth telling, bearing witness as nursing’s moral and political obligation and essential to advancing social justice nursing. Indigenous peoples are facing confusion amidst ongoing colonization, while looking for insights about the state of their relatively poor health and wellbeing. This is a call for nurses to acknowledge their own position, privilege, and power that intersects with relational practice with Indigenous Peoples, starting with each nurse to critically examine their own practice, and develop insight and actionable strategies to address pervasive ‘othering’ while advancing cultural safety.

Nursing has not done the critical work needed within our discipline to respectfully advance Indigenous Knowledges and Wellness. We are concerned that widespread incentivizing of Indigenization may lead to mining and undermining Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing. Colonialism will be perpetuated unless we engage in a self-implicated critique (Andreotti, Stein, Ahenakew & Hunt, 2015) for meaningful decolonization in nursing, health education and healthcare. Nursing needs to move past a soft-reform space of mere inclusion and activate positive change that authentically upholds reciprocity with Indigenous communities as central knowledge holders.

Intended Focus of this Special Issue

Intensive efforts to increase the number of Indigenous nurses and contributions from specific Indigenous knowledge systems will contribute to the enhancement of the health of Indigenous communities. Correspondingly, Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse invites contributions to its first special issue to further develop and augment Indigenous health and critically question knowledge development in nursing.

The theme of this special issue was chosen by our esteemed Cree Nursing scholar Dr. Madeleine Dion Stout, who teaches us about the importance Nīpawīstimatowin - “bearing witness for one another. Nīpawīstimatowin is a Cree word that finds expression in the solemnity of an occasion where stories, experiences, data, information, and wisdom are seen, spoken, scripted, and oriented towards improving Indigenous peoples’ health and well-being. While the relationships between Indigenous peoples and nurses often appear immutable and static, in reality, they are subject to a process of more or less constant recognition and a reflection of changing, evolving, and challenging circumstances and contexts. Currently, interest in Indigenous peoples’ conditions, realities, and aspirations is relatively high, along with making central a space for Indigenous peoples to voice their experiences. Furthermore, Dion Stout invites Miyopayowin -“good turns from changing fortunes” - as the aspirational ethos of reconciliation where change lies in transitioning from a conflict-ridden place to one of peace, connectedness and healing. From this ontological perspective, we hold the premise that ‘nursing is in trouble’ is real and is not only being expressed by nurses across the country but also many Indigenous peoples who receive care.

From this position, the call for Canadian nurses and nursing schools to ameliorate the social, health, and healthcare inequities of Indigenous peoples is not necessarily new. What is novel, however, is the sense of urgency this approach is engendering, due to mounting concerns about health disparities, complaints of racism, and calls for recognizing breaches in human rights for Indigenous peoples. The seemingly incompatibility between nurses’ personal experience and how nurses deliver healthcare services needs to be resolved. Nīpawīstimatowin -“bearing witness for one another ” as expressed above will provide the needed tools for decolonization and the political leveraging for truth to give meaning to strategies for change in the expression of what we see, say, write, and do. 

Thus, the aim of this call in the Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse is to publish written works of scholarship to advance anti-racism in Indigenous health care. This special issue seeks submissions grounded in Canadian Indigenous discourse and worldviews. Further and more specifically, the journal seeks contributions that critically examine the past, current, and future states of Indigenous peoples in Canada, from a nursing perspective that is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Submissions may also focus on decolonizing nursing care, nursing policy, nursing education and/or nursing research.

Suggested Topics

  • Cultural Humility, Cultural Safety and Cultural Security
  • Jurisdictional Health Issues/Policies including, for example, Jordan’s Principle
  • Indigenous Genomics
  • Decolonizing nursing care, nursing policy, nursing education and/or nursing research in Canada
  • Gendered Oppression
  • Indigenous Health Rights
  • Restorative Health Justice
  • Indigenous Data Sovereignty
  • Indigenous Wellness Practice
  • Counteracting Epistemic Racism
  • Indian Hospitals and Medicalization
  • Historical and Intergenerational Trauma
  • Social Justice for Rights Based Healthcare
  • Responses to the TRC Calls to Action in Nursing
  • Indigenous Perspectives: Her/His-stories and Pearls of Wisdom

Note: Student or New Graduate Nurse Voices for Positive Change are welcomed, and such submissions are best supported/mentored by a nursing faculty member.

Guidelines for Authors:

Submissions are to be nurse-authored or if submitted by a team, the lead author must be a nurse. For this special issue, we especially invite submissions from nurse authors who identify as Indigenous. For non-Indigenous lead nurse authors, meaningful authorial inclusion by at least one Indigenous contributor is requested. Prospective authors must also familiarize themselves with the author guidelines set out in the journal found here: https://witness.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/default/about/submissions

Firm Deadline: November 15th, 2019.    All required materials must be submitted through the journal’s online portal found at www.yorku.ca/witness

Prospective authors must register with the journal in order to submit their work.

For any questions including a desire to discuss a proposed submission, please don’t hesitate to contact the journal editor Dr. Cheryl van Daalen-Smith at witness@yorku.ca being sure to cc the lead guest co-editor Dr. Lisa Bourque-Bearskin at lbourquebearskin@tru.ca



Allan, B. & Smylie, J. (2015). First Peoples, second class treatment: The role of racism in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Toronto, ON: The Wellesley Institute.

Andreotti, V. D.O., Stein, S., Ahenakew, C., & Hunt, D. (2015). Mapping interpretations of decolonization in the context of higher education. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 4(1), 21-40.

Dion Stout, M. (2012). Discourse: Ascribed health and wellness, “Atikowisimiýw-ayawin,” to achieved health and wellness, “Kaskitamasowin miýwaayawin”:Shifting the Paradigm. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 44(2), 11-14.

National Inquiry Murdered and Missing Women and Girls (2019). Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Retrieved from https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Final_Report_Vol_1a-1.pdf

Thorne, S. (2019). Genocide by a million paper cuts. Nursing Inquiry DOI: 10.1111/nin.12314 Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.ezproxy.tru.ca/doi/epdf/10.1111/nin.12314

United Nations (2008). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf

World Health Organization (2019). WHO's work on indigenous peoples' health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/gender-equity-rights/knowledge/indigenous-peoples/en/