TWU research

TWU researchers address health inequities affecting Indigenous older adults, through use of digital storytelling

TWU student researcher Gabriella Collins and faculty supervisor Dr. Kendra Rieger are using digital storytelling as a research method that bridges with the Indigenous tradition of oral storytelling.

With words by Gabriella Collins

In their study, “Learning from the old ones: Exploring storytelling as a method with Indigenous older adults in health research,” student researcher Gabriella Collins together with her faculty supervisor Dr. Kendra Rieger seek to address the wide range of health inequities that affect Indigenous older adults.

Nursing major Gabriella is among the winners of TWU's 2022 Undergraduate Student Research Awards. Through TWU Undergraduate Student Research Awards, students have the opportunity to work closely with a TWU faculty member on research projects and receive mentoring.

"It has been a pleasure to supervise Gabriella in her summer research project, and to see her growth," Dr. Rieger comments. "She is a dedicated, passionate, caring, diligent, and thoughtful person, who will contribute much to the profession of nursing, and the health of underserved populations. I look forward to seeing where her path takes her in nursing practice, education, and research."

University Siya:m Patti Victor (Sto:lo) is providing guidance to Gabriella and Dr. Rieger for their work. Additionally, the team is grateful for the support of Kathleen Lounsbury (Namgis), Consultant for Curricular Indigenous Integration in TWU’s School of Nursing. Gabriella and Dr. Rieger’s strategies and approaches are supported by decolonizing and trauma-informed perspectives.

Their research will be shared on Sept. 30 as part of TWU's Day of Learning in honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Creating space to share knowledge

Gabriella seeks to advance the use of storytelling as a method in Indigenous health research. She explains how storytelling is a fairly novel approach that upholds Indigenous oral traditions because “it creates spaces to share Indigenous knowledge about health and illness experiences, and invites other members of the community to be part of sharing."

A person creates their own digital story, in which they can share aspects of their own life, through a short production that is scripted and narrated by its author. It is an empowering and therapeutic process. 

“More than anything, I hope to amplify Indigenous people's voices by ensuring a culturally safe and ethical space for an authentic relationship and seeking collaboration.”

— Gabriella Collins, Nursing major and student researcher 

Recording lived experiences for the benefit of future generations

The researchers’ overall aim is to generate knowledge from the lived experience of the Indigenous elder, to illuminate her lived experiences, and to pass on lessons learned to future generations.

Gabriella shares the significance of the project, “More than anything, I hope to amplify Indigenous people's voices by ensuring a culturally safe and ethical space for an authentic relationship and seeking collaboration.” 

She continues, “I hope that our research may offer a guide to future researchers aiming to work alongside Indigenous older adults in a culturally aware and trauma-informed manner.”

The study incorporates several traditional Indigenous healing practices, such as a talking circle, the handing down of oral traditions, and the honouring of the wisdom that elders offer. In this way, the work upholds the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action related to Health, specifically articles 22 and 23, which are to "call upon those who can affect change within the Canadian healthcare system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices" and to "provide cultural competence training for healthcare professionals".

Viewing the world through two lenses

One of the ways the researchers aim to support decolonizing in research is by using a "two-eyed seeing" approach.

Gabriella explains, "Two-eyed seeing is described as an approach to inquiry and solutions in which people come together to view the world through an Indigenous lens with one eye, while the other eye sees through a Western lens. The intended outcome of two-eyed seeing is that both worldviews are held in harmony, with an understanding that the Western worldview is not to predominate over Indigenous ways of being and knowing."

After Gabriella graduates next spring, she plans to enter TWU’s Master of Science in Nursing program. Her future aspirations are to obtain a master’s degree in nursing research and continue to advocate for health equity for the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.

“My goal is to be a nurse leader, educator, and researcher in TWU's School of Nursing, as this wonderful community of scholars is committed to upstream interventions for the betterment of nursing and healthcare,” she said. “I resonate with this focus, as I see myself striving to find the answers to solving local and global health inequities and pursuing justice. I want to contribute to nursing by being part of a research team that focuses on underserved communities, specifically Indigenous communities who are structurally disadvantaged in healthcare and healthcare education.”

Gabriella credits others for inspiring her to have high aspirations. “These visions I have for my future career as a nurse researcher wouldn't exist if it weren't for the Office of Research & Graduate Studies and their generous financial support. It has been an amazing opportunity to be mentored by Dr. Wolff and Dr. Rieger over the past two summers. Not only have I come to understand the significance of nursing research to the art and science of nursing, but also, I have learned many skills that will propel me into the master's program. I'm also thankful to Dr. Reimer-Kirkham and Kathleen Lounsbury for their support in this journey.”

See also — Kathleen Lounsbury of Namgis First Nation leads curricular Indigenous integration in TWU’s School of Nursing
TWU News

See also — Dr. Kendra Rieger and TWU School of Nursing advance Indigenous perspectives in healthcare

TWU News

About Indigenous Initiatives at Trinity Western University

At TWU, we seek to hear, understand and acknowledge our shared history with Indigenous peoples and the impact that it continues to have throughout the generations. As a global Christian university, TWU continues to foster greater knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures, worldview, and history among students, staff, and faculty. We do this by providing educational opportunities, engaging in community partnerships, and through caring for and supporting Indigenous students.

Learn more at TWU's Indigenous Initiatives.

About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier global Christian liberal arts university. We are dedicated to equipping students to discover meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. Drawing upon the riches of the Christian tradition, seeking to unite faith and reason through teaching and scholarship, Trinity Western University is a degree-granting research institution offering liberal arts and sciences as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has four locations in Canada: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, and Ottawa. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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