Dr. Margo Greenwood, Academic Leader of the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health, is an Indigenous scholar of Cree ancestry with years of experience focused on the health and well-being of Indigenous children, families, and communities. She also holds a Professor appointment in both the First Nations Studies and Education programs at the University of Northern British Columbia.
On Indigenous diversity
There’s great diversity in our communities. And our families deserve the right of choice. Our families deserve high-quality programs. One of the things that makes the Early Years and the Martin Family Initiative successful and unique is that each community drives its own program. The program is flexible and adaptable to meet the needs of diverse Indigenous communities: over 600 nations and 60 different linguistic groups. So it’s not the program that’s the focus, it’s each community that’s the focus. That’s a huge and important difference. The Early Years is lifting up the good work that the community is doing.
On building infrastructure
One of the significant pieces that the Early Years brings to any community it partners with is knowledge and resources targeted at building an infrastructure. That approach strikes at what I think has been a gap for decades: the administrative infrastructure support often isn’t included, or is very limited, in other early childhood programs. It’s a cornerstone of this work, because it means you’re building the sustainability of the program in community.
On a holistic approach
The program has brought people together in community. It has provided employment to women in community, and served young mums and babies. And it has gotten family members involved because they say, “Oh, my daughter is going to this program, I’m going there to help to do this or that.” It creates a platform for the integration of programs and a safe place where people can come together and talk about children. The most fundamental building block of communities is families, and the Early Years supports the rich and optimal development of those families. Children are part of that, and parents are part of that. This is an important opportunity to really look at the child in the context of family.