Hoofs, feathers, fur, and blood: The centrality of our four legged and winged relatives to Indigenous health and wellbeing

From fields, forests, and the spirit world, our four-legged and winged relatives have always been a strong component of Indigenous cultures and their health. Across centuries, Indigenous cultures and communities have continued to seek wellness through the connections, and reconnections, with non-human animals. Indigenous relationships with animals are at the core of ceremony, spirituality, connectedness, well-being and sustenance. Though colonization and trauma have interrupted the balance in these relationships, many Indigenous communities are continuing to transmit, revitalize, and rely on these practices for wellbeing today. This panel will present a holistic approach to Indigenous health and wellness that includes core contributions from our four legged and feathered relatives. The themes of non-human animals as healers, spiritual helpers, protectors, teachers and providers of sustenance/food and medicines will be addressed. The presenters will further provide overviews of historical and contemporary practices that revolve around animals from their Choctaw, Cree and Anishinabe cultures. Finally they will illustrate these practices by discussing their community engaged research involving animals and health.