Aboriginal community leaders and health researchers in Canada have recently looked to self-determination, self-governance, and capacity building as solutions to reducing the gap in health disparities particularly among youth. Yet little research has investigated how the promotion of autonomy and self-determination through self-care could directly contribute to improved health and wellbeing. This paper examines how traditional workshops offered by an Aboriginal health centre on Manitoulin Island contribute to individual and community health via self-care, and in turn to the rebuilding of capacity. We investigated how traditional teachings may support individual, community, and environmental health for youth in two Anishnabe communities using a variety of community-based participatory qualitative methods. Results show the need to approach traditional teachings, health programs, and research from an Aboriginal world view, and that more frequent workshops are required to empower both youth and adults to practice and share traditional knowledge. Furthermore, a continuum exists in which the interest in language, culture, and tradition increases with age. Capacity can therefore be rebuilt over time within communities promoting autonomy and self-determination through self-care. Findings can be expected to further inform the traditional programming in participating communities and to enhance our understanding of the role traditional medicine, as one element of self-care, plays in determining health.
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