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In this episode, award-winning journalist David P. Ball and family physician Dr. Esther Tailfeathers speak with Maura Gowans, a counselling consultant for Indigenous people, about the role that connection to culture can play in healing and wellness. Together, they discuss the importance of bringing together traditional Indigenous approaches and Western approaches to substance use care in the context of the toxic drug crisis. Maura also describes how she creates safe spaces for clients and embeds cultural practices into her life and clinical practice.


Learning Objectives

  1. Discuss the role that culture can play in healing and reducing harms from substance use.
  2. Recognize the role that colonialism plays in disconnecting Indigenous Peoples from their cultures.
  3. Understand the importance of asking clients about their relationship to community and culture, including cultural preferences and needs, while fostering a strengths-based and person-centred approach to care.


In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • 2:00 – Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, Co-host – Family Physician, Kainai Nation Blood Reserve
  • 8:05 – Maura Gowans, Guest – Clinical Counsellor, Maura Gowans Counselling and Consulting

Clinical Pearls

Here’s what listeners can take away from this episode:

  1. As clinicians, it’s important to understand that healing involves more than just medical treatments. Cultural and personal connections are also crucial. While medical offerings such as opioid agonist treatment are essential in the context of the toxic drug crisis, people may also want and need support from mentors, Elders, or family members to overcome challenges. Healing is about the whole person and their community.
  2. For many Indigenous individuals, colonialism has resulted in a significant disconnection from culture, land, and family through the impacts of the residential school system and the Sixties Scoop. For those who experience disconnection from culture, there is an opportunity for healing through different learning experiences and embracing alternative pathways to cultural connection.
  3. There is no singular way to incorporate culture into clinical practice. As a first step, start learning about the Indigenous Peoples whose land you reside and practice on, recognizing the diversity of Indigenous Peoples and their beliefs, cultures and practices. Avoid making assumptions about your client’s preferences and, instead, ask how you can help create a safe space for them.


Indigenous cultural programming

Policy briefs


Connecting with providers, Indigenous patient navigators and liaisons

Indigenous films and podcasts on related topics


Credits: Art and music

Episode cover art by Satsi Naziel entitled “Culture is Medicine”. “In indigenous cultures all across America, we cherish and take care of our elders. Drawn is an elder guiding a younger person ‘back home’. In the Wet’suwet’en culture, we have five clans, each with their own crest. C’ilhts’ëkhyu (Big Frog), Tsayu (Beaver), Gidumt’en (bear/wolf), Likhsilyu (Small Frog), and Likhts’amisyu (fireweed/killerwhale). This elder is guiding this person back to their nation’s people, represented by the five clan crests of the Wet’suwet’en. It is here that both the elder and young person find healing, belonging, and community.”

Satsi Naziel is a two-spirited Wet’suwet’en and Chilean Artist. They were born in unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in what is known as Smithers British Columbia. They have spent a lot of time connecting on their Yintah (the traditional land of the Wet’suwet’en). Though Satsi has been an artist for most of their life, they have been practicing North West Coast Art since 2020. Satsi finds passion, inspiration, and dreams in their traditional artform. They love to spread the healing, the reconnection and pride that comes with seeing and creating North West Coast pieces. They believe this artform like any other cultural aspect of the Wet’suwet’en, brings back the spirit of their nations’ people piece by piece. As we work through the trauma of colonization, we become our ancestors’ wildest dreams through decolonization and the reclamation of everything that makes us strong and beautiful. Snekalyah (Thank you). 

Music by Justin Delorme/Chippewa Travellers (“Determination”), Handsome Tiger/Chippewa Travellers (“Healing” & “SummerBlues”) and Mimi O’Bonsawin (“NewDay”). Available on Nagamo Publishing. Licensed by Nagamo Publishing Inc.