The Okanagan Indian Band’s youngest councillor has created a documentary series that delves into the damaging effects of colonialism on the health of Indigenous people in Canada.
In January, Vernon’s Ryan Oliverius became a recipient of $10,000 from Telus Storyhive, as one of 91 creators who earned the funding through the Storyhive Voices project. The funding came along with training and a community of support to help Oliverius create a documentary series called Decolonizing Wellness.
The series, now available on Telus Optik TV channel 345 and Storyhive’s YouTube channel, investigates how colonialism has impacted the health and wellness of Indigenous Canadians. Oliverius uses a “two-eyed seeing” approach, which means weaving together Indigenous and Western knowledge and striking a balance between the two.
As the OKIB’s youngest council member, Oliverius feels a sense of urgency to bring Indigenous health issues to the forefront and find solutions to create healthy generations to come. In the series, he confronts the current state of Indigenous people and embarks on an experimental journey of weaving together Western and Syilx ways of knowing in pursuit of a healthier future for his people.
“For me, decolonizing wellness is incorporating traditional knowledge and ways of being to live a good life, and a little more like my ancestors did,” Oliverius says in the first episode of the series.
In the episode, Oliverius says he struggled with his weight up until he was about 15 years old, when he got involved in sports and weight training.
He says one of the biggest reasons he wanted to start Decolonizing Wellness was because of his grandma, a residential school survivor who had type 2 diabetes and died when he was 15.
“That really impacted me, that was like my first real loss in my life, and it just pushed me to want to be a healthier person,” he said.
Oliverius touches upon a “scary statistic,” that 80 per cent of Indigenous people will have type 2 diabetes within their lifetime.
“But type 2 diabetes is preventable. You can prevent type 2 diabetes by changing your lifestyle, changing your diet,” he said. “I think we need to be cognizant of what we put into our mouths, what we feed our bodies. In some ways it’s almost common sense, like eating natural foods that come from the earth, and staying away from processed foods.”