Overview

This project seeks to uncover, explain, and preserve the experiences of Indigenous people with tuberculosis so that these experiences are not forgotten. The project is guided by the following questions: 1) What was the nature of “case finding” (efforts to locate individuals with tuberculosis)? 2) What were the processes and procedures by which First Nations, Métis and Inuit tuberculosis patients went to TB hospitals in Manitoba? 3) How did segregated TB hospitals operate? 4) What was the nature of TB treatment for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people? 5) What programs of education and rehabilitation operated in the TB hospitals and how did they work?

Knowledge about these questions will be gathered in two main ways. Research of archival and material sources related to the history of tuberculosis will be undertaken.  Simultaneously, life histories of Indigenous people who were TB patients and employees of the sanatoria will be gathered, analyzed and preserved.

The primary sources of archival information regarding Indigenous histories of tuberculosis in Manitoba are the records of the federal Departments of Indian Affairs and National Health and Welfare (now Health Canada) and the records of the Sanatorium Board of Manitoba. Band, church, provincial, municipal, museum and other collections will also be consulted. These records discuss how tuberculosis hospitals were run by the federal government and the Sanatorium Board of Manitoba, including the day-to-day operations of the hospitals; construction, maintenance, repair and purchase of the physcal facilities, furniture and equipment; human resources; preparing food; medical treatments; and social and educational programming and rehabilitation of patients.

With respect to oral histories, we are using a “Life History” approach that contextualizes individuals’ experiences of tuberculosis within the overall context of their lives. This approach will contribute to a fuller understanding of the historical effects of hospitalization and its legacies. Rather than developing a pre-defined set of questions, our method of interviewing is to encourage people to tell their life story in their own words. Interviewees are also asked to talk about how their communities defined and treated TB, the process of and resistance to relocation to hospitals, band involvement and communication with hospitals and medical staff about patients, impacts of relocation on families, homes and communities, rehabilitation, perspectives on medical treatment and rehabilitation at the hospitals, post-sanatorium experiences and reflections on long term legacies of hospitalization.

This research will be translated into a book and/or articles that explore the history in more detail and make the research accessible to anyone. Additionally, the research will be presented to academic and professional audiences where possible. We understand the past through the lens of the present and the “Indgenous Histories of Tuberculosis in Manitoba” will also inform current health policy and systems as they strive to ensure the best care for all people in Canada.

Fundamentally, this project aligns with efforts to eradicate TB. The records explored by this project contain data that may prove relevant to the development of future policy. Moreover, these records contain information that will help healthcare professionals to better understand the socio-economic and socio-cultural determinants of health, especially in the context of TB.