Following graduation in June 2016, Emma Elliott-Groves accepted a position as an assistant research professor at Partnerships for Native Health through Washington State University. Emma will continue her work in the area of Indigenous suicide as she will be working on a strengths-based suicide prevention trial in four tribal nations in the United States.
Most recently, Emma returned to her home community of Cowichan on Vancouver Island to present the findings of her dissertation work on suicide. Emma’s dissertation aimed to understand the meanings and explanations of suicide in her home community from the perspective of community members. Members provided multiple explanations for suicidal behavior at both the individual and the collective levels. Emma’s presentation the importance of relationships, place, intergenerational and collective social formations, Indigenous teaching and learning practices, and varying cultural concepts of personhood.
On Saturday, September 10, 2016, Emma’s family hosted a community event so that she could present the findings from her dissertation back to the community in a good way. A large part of Indigenous Methodological approache speaks to the importance of ensuring that the Indigenous peoples benefit from the knowledge generated by the research. In addition, most Indigenous peoples have processes and protocols to ensure that knowledge is passed from one generation to the next in a good way.
The entire community was invited to attend the event in which Emma presented the stories/theories and findings from her dissertation work. Speaking on a “difficult and touchy subject,” Emma and her family wanted to ensure that each community guest felt appreciated and cared for. Counselors and elders from Tsow-Tun Le Lum, a nonprofit Aboriginal addiction and counseling center, offered their support to guests who may have been emotionally or spiritually impacted by the topic. In addition to being present for guests, elders and counselors offered Cedar brushing to attendees. For Cowichan peoples, Cedar is a plant medicine that can help take away some of the emotional and spiritual pain associated with trauma and loss. The community, and the participants specifically, have supported Emma and her academic journey for many years. Thus, it was important for her family to give back to the community. Community members were “gifted” with Cowichan Tzinquaw dancing, a salmon dinner, and traditional “giveaways.” Approximately 150 guests attended the event. Following the event, Della (Rice) Sylvester (Emma’s mom and a Cowichan elder) remarked, “It was wonderful to see people who don’t normally speak out stand up and share their stories so passionately.” It is great to see that the event provided a space for all people to speak about their losses associated with suicide in a safe and caring environment.
When Emma approached the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute to ask for donations of “swag” to gift to her community, we were honored to contribute. With this story, and countless others, we know that our “work” as Indigenous researchers will never really ever be over, even if the research is done. Keep up the great work, Emma! We are proud of you.