“Indigenous harm reduction means reducing the harms of colonialism.”- Rawiri Evans, Maori Educator
Mainstream harm reduction practices such as needle exchange programs, naloxone distribution and opioid substitution therapies have been established as a main approach in the prevention of HIV, hepatitis C, and overdoses. While these approaches are lifesaving, they are not enough to make a meaningful difference within Indigenous communities. Mainstream harm reduction models focus too narrowly on substance using behaviours, neglecting the broader social and system-wide issues that contribute to and intersect with substance use for Indigenous peoples in the first place. For Indigenous communities, harm reduction = reducing the harms of colonization. It is inclusive of, but much broader than, a focus on using substances or safer sex. Indigenous harm reduction is a way of life, rooted in Indigenous Knowledges and worldviews, combined with the best of what the Western world can offer, and focused on mitigating the living legacy of colonization. Among Indigenous communities however, harm reduction can be contentious and contested. If Indigenous approaches to harm reduction are to be successful, communities and community leaders must find ways to engage in conversations informed by evidence and understanding to facilitate inclusion of all Indigenous people in ceremony, programs and community life.
With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and guided by a national Advisory Committee the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), in partnership with ICAD, developed a series of resources outlining Indigenous approaches to harm reduction.
Policy Brief and Promising Practices in Indigenous Harm Reduction
Indigenous Harm Reduction = Reducing the Harms of Colonialism: A policy brief
This policy brief outlines Indigenous approaches to harm reduction with recommendations for governments and organizations to use to incorporate Indigenous approaches to harm reduction in their on-going and future efforts to support the self-defined, self-determined, and distinctions-based health and wellness of First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
13 Moons Harm Reduction
13 Moons was informed by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network’s Four Fire Model of Harm Reduction. They include cultural safety, reclamation, self-determination and sovereignty. The program is operationalized under the leadership of Indigenous youth, service providers and organizational leaders through six related program
activities across various organizations, community groups, and helpers or volunteers.