Health Transformation

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Health Transformation will create a new southern First Nations health governance structure that is representative of, and accountable to, First Nation communities. Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) recognizes the expertise of First Nation communities and health care professionals in developing and implementing a First Nations-governed health system. The model will be community-led and holistic, encompassing physical, spiritual, mental, economic, environmental, social, and cultural wellness.

Wellness Keeping: Healing Through Culture

Imagine a world where our people are among the healthiest in the world. For thousands of years, our people thrived by honouring the teachings of our ancestors.

On behalf of the Health Transformation Elders and Knowledge Keepers, it is our hope to share with you the wisdom of Anishinaabe and Dakota teachings to foster clarity, balance, and good health in our people and communities, in our Health Transformation series Wellness Keeping: Healing Through Culture.

As we reclaim our inherent right to health, it is important to remember that we all must take time to care for ourselves in ways that ground us in our roots. We challenge everyone to practice a way of caring for yourself that honors your cultural identity. Whether that be reconnecting in nature, spending time with a loved one, practicing ceremony or prayer, find something that speaks to you and nurtures your spirit. 

SCO Signs Historic Memorandum of Understanding with Canada

Anishinaabeg and Dakota peoples will assume greater control of their health and wellness, as a result of an historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on June 18, 2020 in an innovative virtual ceremony between SCO and the Government of Canada. The MOU signals the beginning of health transformation for First Nations in southern Manitoba, including equitable access and culturally appropriate health care for Elders, youth, families, and communities that is central to wellness and the success of Anishinaabeg and Dakota peoples.

Under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, First Nations have inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights that include the right to health and self-determination over health systems. In addition, Treaties reaffirmed First Nations’ jurisdiction over our own health systems and established a positive obligation on the Crown to provide “medicines and protection,” and Aboriginal rights affirm First Nations’ right to self-determination towards our way of life.

The path forward to improved health outcomes for First Nations must include high quality, culturally safe health systems that are designed by and under the leadership of First Nations. The MOU formalizes both parties’ commitment to a working relationship that will help southern First Nations address gaps in the health care system, and also assist in bringing much needed health care services closer to First Nation communities.

In 2007, the United Nations emphasized the importance of Indigenous rights to pursue self-determination in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The MOU responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action and the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), which calls on governments to implement actions to improve First Nations’ health.

All levels of government recognize the need to work collaboratively to establish a new health care model where First Nation communities, leadership, and health care professionals have increased self-administration, self-determination, and self-governance authority. In September 2019, the Chiefs-in-Summit passed a resolution supporting the health transformation process, “Exercising our Treaty and Inherent Right to Health”. First Nations will assume greater control and be responsible for the design and delivery of community-based health care services including:

  • Enacting policies
  • Creating Community Wellness Plans with full range of Community-Based Health Care Services available to community members
  • Identifying evaluation, research, and data systems
  • Identifying results
  • Allocating resources
  • Establishing service standards
  • Training/recruiting a wide range of Health Human Resources
  • Identifying health capital resources

Through a community-driven process, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization will work with First Nation partners and all orders of government to build a First Nation health system in southern Manitoba that encompasses the following:

  • Decisions made by First Nations, for First Nations
  • Full basket of community based health care services, improved infrastructure, and increased health human resources
  • Community-based approach where services are more culturally responsive, reflective of regional particularities, and also provided “closer to home”
  • Opportunity to pool, re-allocate resources, and leverage funds to increase access and obtain better care
  • Primary care service delivery could extend to First Nation members in rural or urban centres
  • Ability to work more collaboratively with other sectors (i.e. social determinants of health)
  • Strengthened and effective partnerships with provincial health system to ensure seamless continuum of care and culturally safe health care delivery to First Nation citizens

Check out the full Health Transformation – MOU between SCO & Canada (PDF)

Health Transformation Initiative

Community Health Transformation Liaisons

Dennis Boulanger, Berens River First Nation

Carla Bird, Black River First Nation

Roy Moskotaywenene, Bloodvein First Nation

Jazmyn-Rae Desjarlais, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation

Jessica Brown, Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation

Adrienne Pashe, Dakota Tipi First Nation

Darren Marsden, Dauphin River First Nation

Kaylee Desjarlais, Ebb and Flow First Nation

Brendon Angell, Gambler First Nation

Florastine Castel, Hollow Water First Nation

Brad Swan, Lake Manitoba First Nation

Evan LacQuette, O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation

Tavis Stagg, Pinaymootang First Nation

Veronica Berg, Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation

Audrey Henderson, Sagkeeng First Nation

Ruth Nepinak, Skownan First Nation

Mistahey Miller, Tootinaowaziibeeng Treaty Reserve

Bernalda Cloud, Waywayseecappo First Nation

Southern Chiefs’ Organization currently has Community Health Transformation Liaisons in 18 First Nations.  More southern communities are in the hiring process.


The SCO Health Unit was established in response to the high rates of disease occurring within the Southern First Nation communities through a resolution on January 13, 1999 by the SCO Chiefs-in-Summit. Since then, the SCO Health Team has provided support as requested by member First Nations in the areas of: advocacy, advisory, facilitation, communication, policy development, and research.

On-Going Health Programs

Resources