I have worked with Indigenous communities in remote communities and urban settings, and it is the most meaningful of all of my research and activism. I have Indigenous family members and grew up in a social environment where people were committed to supporting the lives, safety, and survival of these communities.
Although strides are being made in Canada, women, men, girls, and transgender Indigenous people continue to be hurt and disappeared at rates far beyond those of non-Indigenous Canadians. Over 150 communities do not have safe drinking water, another shameful indicator of health and dispossession by the nation state. I have published in journal articles, book chapters, and made many conference and community presentations on this part of my research program.
My first independent research project was conducted with Indigenous youth living in the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach, Quebec. Living with a family, becoming immersed in local life, and learning from the teenagers and others was an experience that continues to impact me today. I love the people I met and worked very hard to collect information that could paint a holistic, empathetic, and sound portrait of the lives of youth in this community.
I remain in touch with my “Kawa” family and have since undertaken many projects, often in collaboration with other researchers and community members, that involve youth. Some of these studies include exploring how sport shaped their lives, how community engagement can impact resilience, and the ways that arts-based methods (i.e., photovoice) capture youth experiences.
Many of my Indigenous projects involve health issues, whether they be physical, sexuality, or political. I helped lead a project about cancer in several Anishinaabe communities in northern Ontario and have written about the intersection between food and cultural identity. Some of my collaborative endeavours have examined complimentary medicine and healing, community-led approaches to addictions, and HIV testing practices.
Other studies I have taken part in link to health in more political ways, including finding ways to decolonizing educational institutions and support the educational and career aspirations of Indigenous people living in urban areas.
Education was a key site of colonization through the residential schools, and in many parts of northern Canada students who want a quality education must leave their communities and live further south, often with strangers. Making educational opportunities available in their home communities and ensuring that there are meaningful jobs related to their training are areas we need to focus more energies on.
A snapshot of the projects I’ve led & been involved with:
- Shepherd, R., Orchard, T. (2022). “We Cause a Ruckus”: Exploring How Indigenous Youth Navigate the Challenges of Community Engagement and Leadership. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 19, 9542.
- Laliberte Rudman, D., Richmond, C., Orchard, T. & Isaac, A. (2021). Educational vision quests of Canadian First Nations youth: A photovoice exploration. In ‘And a Seed was Planted’: Occupation-Based Approaches for Social Inclusion, H. van Bruggen, N. Pollard & S. Kantartzis, Eds. London, UK: Whiting and Birch; In press.
- Invited participant in Youth Futures: Bringing Together Indigenous and Western Approaches to Promote Youth Resilience and Prosperity in First Nations Communities. This is an interdisciplinary research project funded by SSHRC that’s based out of Carleton University (2017-present)
- Invited mentor for the Learning with Head & Heart: Building an ethical place for Indigenous undergraduate research discovery at Western (June- August 2018)
- Orchard, T. (2018). Invited participant and lead of Body Mapping Workshop with Indigenous Youth, part of the Event Series on Mental Wellness in Toronto, Ontario (March 16 & 17)
- Graduate Education (1998): Teenagers of The Tundra: The Teenage Experience Among The Naskapi of Kawawachikamach, Quebec. MA from the Department of Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador