Gathering grounds: an Indigenous community of practice during COVID-19

Danielle Lucero - IIRC20
Thursday, November 19, 2020

We will present seven emerging principles identified by Seven Directions, a Center for Indigenous Public Health for developing and implementing an Indigenous

Community of Practice (CoP). We applied these principles within Gathering Grounds, a virtual community of practice centered in Indigenous thought and ways of knowing. 

In early March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread through Indigenous communities in the U.S. The lack of adequate response by the U.S. government and years of insufficient funding to support tribal health systems exacerbated this public health crisis. Organizations and communities quickly mobilized to implement response plans and create strategies to protect their members. In support of Indigenous communities' many efforts, we adapted our CoP to be a space for dialogue about COVID-19 and protecting our relatives.

Communities of Practice as defined by Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave (2002) are “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.” Seven Directions CoP, Gathering Grounds, focuses on sharing and exchanging efforts ‘by and for’ Indigenous peoples. Our sessions center and privilege participants and presenters experience in addressing COVID-19 in tribal and urban communities across the U.S. Over the past six months, we’ve brought together members of non-profit organizations, students, tribal, and state health departments to share promising practices: approaches, tools, experiences, and resources. These efforts include inviting the Lummi Nation medical director to share their approach to providing a rapid response within their tribal systems (e.g., mutual agreements, supplies, and telehealth). The Native Governance Center presented on the five nation rebuilding principles to hold when creating and sharing Indigenized communication material to the community for mitigation of COVID-19. Recently, Dr. Marisa Duarte shared her work, with pueblos in northern New Mexico, to establish hot spots and identify the relationship between digital inequities and COVID-19. Gathering Grounds offers an opportunity to leverage resources from across sectors to address the challenges faced by the pandemic. The meetings, centered in Indigenous praxis, are a time to reflect and take action. 

During a time of grave uncertainty, Gathering Grounds meetings are a welcome place to affirm each other and connect through story and shared experience. We will continue to host meetings focused on facilitating meaningful conversations about resources and tools organizations and tribes are using and recommend to other members. In this presentation, participants will have the opportunity to learn more about Gathering Grounds, its development, and how this space has connected professionals, students, and community members within Indigenous public health. We will share considerations and next steps to further develop the guiding principles and Indigenous community of praxis.