15: Survival of the Kindest: Holly Prince – Dancing in the Field of End of Life Care.

This week Julian talks to PhD student, expert in death and dying, and indigenous scholar Holly Prince. Holly came to know about palliative and end of life care through the sudden loss of her friend aged 24 to cancer. Her experience growing up in an Anishinaabe community of how death happens was greatly at odds with what she came into contact with in western medicine.

‘I couldn’t understand where our knowledge was’

Having felt the work of a community involved with the death of its members, Holly was shocked at the manner of dying in hospices and hospitals. The exclusion of tradition, and the lack of information doctors to carers, encouraged Holly to learn more. After meeting Mary-Lou Kelly she was thus pulled into the academic study of palliative care and started to do extraordinary work on community dying. Having spent much of her academic career looking at how to integrate palliative care and first nations communities, her studies have now come full circle; Holly’s PhD focuses on how to decolonise end of life care in first nations communities; how to use the resources that are inherent in their way of life.

Holly and Julian touch briefly on the historical atrocities committed by the Canadian Government to first nations communities, and the ongoing mechanism of colonialism still very much present in Eurocentric society, with new examples arising daily; First Nation communities live with the aftermath of the systematic abuse of culture, of children, and of tradition. It is time for a reckoning, and in Holly’s own words ‘Its up to people who are listening to figure out what their responsibility is in this relationship and whether or not they are going to take what I say, and if they are going to use that as an opportunity for their own learning, their own self-reflection their own research on these things ‘

Holly’s story and conversation are nothing short of inpspirational as well as informative.

‘Your life is part of a larger process and you are accountable to all your relations’

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