Catherine Tanski (Kitselas/Kitsumkalum Nation), RN,
Indigenous Leadership Circle Chair, BC Nurses’ Union.
Christina Chakanyuka (Métis), RN, MN, PhD Student,
University of Victoria.
Nikki Rose Hunter Porter (St’uxwtews),, RN, MN Student,
Thompson Rivers University.
Michelle Padley (Métis), RN, MN Student,
Thompson Rivers University.
Mona Lisa Bourque Bearskin (Beaver Lake Cree Nation), RN, PhD, BC
Chair Indigenous Health Research in Nursing,
Associate Professor, Thompson Rivers University.
In 1971, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) designated May 12 as International Nurses Day on the birthday of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910). Since that time, Nurses Week has been attached to the week of May 12 worldwide.
In light of provincial and national efforts to dismantle a widely recognized colonial healthcare system, many Indigenous nurses are calling for Indigenous Nurses Day to be held separate and apart from mainstream Nurses Week. From an Indigenous health viewpoint, Nightingale built the nursing model largely upon Eurocentric and paternalistic views, and her reign was during the height of British Imperial colonization upon Indigenous Peoples. Further, it was Nightingale’s research which served as the template for nursing models implemented in Canada’s Indian Hospitals and throughout segregated healthcare services, a legacy that still haunts Indigenous survivors. It is our collective position that continuing to celebrate Florence Nightingale as the “beacon of nursing” does a disservice to Indigenous nurses who do not align with her vision. The New Zealand Nurses Organization has already taken a clear position on this (see link below).
Beginning this year, we are celebrating Indigenous Nurses Day on April 10, the birthday of Edith Monture – the first Indigenous person to practice as a registered nurse within the Canadian healthcare system in 1914. We aim to elevate the voices of Indigenous nurses and bring attention to their important role in improving Indigenous health equity. For example, did you know that St’at’imx nurse Rose Casper was the first First Nations person to become a nurse in Western Canadian in 1955?
We ask that you join the Indigenous Leadership Circle (ILC) at the British Columbia Nurses’ Union and the Indigenous Health Nursing Research Team along with community partners in our endeavor to promote the recognition of our past, present, and future Indigenous nurse
s on April 10 as a new official date. On this day, Indigenous nurses and allies can proudly celebrate the history and legacy of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nurses! This celebration will include Indigenous guest speakers, sharing circles, and stories shared by the families of Edith Monture and Rose Casper.
This event is in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, and the recent In Plain Sight Report which detailed entrenched racism in BC healthcare.
On behalf of Indigenous Leadership Circle with BCNU and the Indigenous Health Nursing Research Team, we thank you for your time in considering our vision and standing in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples on the frontlines of healthcare.
Warmly in wellness,
Catherine Tanski RN
ILC Provincial Chair
BC Nurses’ Union
Tribute to Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture, (1890 – 1996)
“Edith” was born on April 10 and belonged to the Six Nations reserve in Ohsweken near Brantford, Ontario. She was a member of the Mohawk tribe and the youngest of eight siblings. When in her early 20s, Edith applied to several nursing schools in Ontario. However, Canada’s Indian Act placed restrictions on the pursuit of higher education by all Status Indians and Edith was refused acceptance. Edith instead applied in the United States and was accepted into the Rochelle Nursing School in New York. Edith became a registered nurse in 1914, after graduating first in her class. Edith was the first registered nurse of Indigenous descent in Canadian history.
Associated Links (6)
Additional Associated Links (6)
Edith Anderson Monture: The 1st First Nations Registered Nurse in Canada
St’at’imx Nurse Rose Casper Retires After 50 Years of Service: First Native Nurse in Western Canada (FNHA, 2013, p. 6)
21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality (REVIEW)
In Search of the Truth: Uncovering Nursing’s Involvement in Colonial Harms and Assimilative Policies Five Years Post Truth and Reconciliation Commission
NZ Nurses Organization: Why we aren’t celebrating Florence’s birthday
Nursing Clio: Beyond Florence (Series)